RANGOON — Residents of Taungup in Arakan State’s south have demanded an immediate end to marble quarrying at nearby Mt. Naypu, saying that the project is tantamount to environmental vandalism and operates contrary to the wishes of the local community.
Representatives from civil society organizations and hundreds of locals from Taungup and surrounding townships staged a protest on Sunday against the quarry, operated in a joint venture by Vietnamese firms Simco and Song Da, and expected to export up to 7850 metric tons of marble each year for the next two decades.
Zeya Kyaw, a representative of the Arakan Social Network’s Taungup chapter, told The Irrawaddy that the project had failed to deliver benefits to local people and damaged the area’s delicate ecological balance.
“Rather than exporting these valuable, scarce resources as raw materials, we’d like [the government] to develop ecotourism,” he said.
The protesters are planning to petition the state and Union governments and the Vietnamese Embassy in Rangoon within the next month, and said they will stage protests across Arakan State if a formal response is not forthcoming.
Simco and Song Da signed a deal with the Union government in 2012 granting mineral rights over the Mt. Naypu concession until 2033. Arakan State Industry Minister Aung Than Tin told The Irrawaddy he expects a new deal will be signed with the company upon the conclusion of the original lease.
State lawmaker Aung Mya Kyaw told a session of the Arakan parliament in Mar. 2013 that locals had no prior knowledge of the project, which had been negotiated and approved without any semblance of transparency.