Chinese Company Behind Controversial Copper Mine Eyes Additional 100k Acres

By Zarni Mann 3 December 2018

MANDALAY–Local concerns over the environmental impacts and potential for land confiscation in the Latpadaung copper mining area are rising again with the submission of an application by a Chinese mining company to carry out a land inspection of a potential copper mining site in the Yinmarbin area of Monywa Township, Sagaing Region.

Myanmar Yang Tse Copper Limited, a subsidiary of Beijing-based Wanbao Mining Limited, which is mining copper in the controversial Latpadaung copper mining zone of Sarlingyi in Monywa Township, is seeking permission to do a preliminary ground inspection for another copper mine in the area around Sarlingyi, Yinmabin and Kani townships, which would span over 100,000 acres (40,000 hectares) of land.

According to regional government officials, the application for permission was submitted to the regional government office on Nov. 29 and is yet to be granted.

“The company and some government officials met at the end of November when the company requested the inspection. This is still under consideration of the government team and no permission has yet been granted for such an inspection,” U Kam Za Mon, regional minister for agriculture, livestock and irrigation, told The Irrawaddy on Sunday.

The company is about to invest between 6 and 10 million US dollars for the inspection project on over 100,000 acres of land around Kani, Yinmabin and Sarlingyi, however, the project schedule is still unknown.

“Even if permission to do the inspection was granted, it would not mean they can do mining in that area. We also have high concerns, as many of the problems of the mining currently ongoing in Latpadaung are still unsolvable,” he added.

However, rumors that Myanmar Yang Tse Copper Limited is already bringing in its machinery ahead of the inspection has spread concern among the locals who have already witnessed environmental devastation and forced relocated in the copper mining area of Letpadaung.

“Some locals from Yinmabin and Kani reported to us that the company has come to their area with the tools and machines to begin the inspection. The locals are worrying that their region will turn out like Latpadaung,” said U Tun Tun Win, a local lawmaker of Kani Township.

In the area Myanmar Yang Tse Copper Limited has been eyeing for a new copper mine, there are at least 30 villages and thousands of acres of farmland. There are also two extinct volcanoes in Kani Township which is covered by the inspection area.

“As local parliamentarians, we also do not want another environment-threatening project in our area. We are now collecting data and voices from the locals and will submit them to the parliament, [in order] not to allow such mining in the region,” said Daw Aung Mary, a local parliamentarian from Yinmabin Township.

The first Letpadaung copper mining project, a joint venture between the Myanmar military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (UMEHL) and the Chinese firm Wanbao, was launched in 2010.

About 7,800 acres (3,200 hectares) of land in Salingyi Township were confiscated for the project, which has been dogged by serious protests by locals over poor compensation and environmental safeguards since 2012.