EARTH Thailand

Locals want coal mining in Dawei halted

Myanmar Eleven News / The Nation 02 November 2015 | Khine Kyaw

As a controversial coal-mining project implicating Thai companies in the remote Ban Chaung area of Dawei District resumed its operations last week, local residents and civil society organisations called for an immediate halt to all activities until a full assessment is conductred

Naw Pe The Law, a community leader and adviser to Tarkapaw Youth Group, which focuses mainly on protecting the environment and livelihoods in Dawei District, said the project could severely harm the environment, community health, traditional livelihoods and unique indigenous way of life in the area.

She said an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) needs to be transparently undertaken before the firms start mining operations.

"This project not only harms the environment in one of the most ecologically important regions of Myanmar but also threatens the entire way of life of the indigenous Karen people here," she said.

"We are losing our natural resources to foreign companies who are taking advantage of the unstable political situation in our country."

According to Naw Pe The Law, Mayflower Mining Company won the mining permit through its political connections. Two Thai companies – East Star Co and Thai Asset Co – became involved later.

"The firms cannot show proper official documents that allow them to do mining activities here. We will wait for a week. If the authorities fail to take action against them, we have no other choice… but to take them to court," she said.

A report by Tarkapaw Youth Group in cooperation with two other Dawei-based civil society organisations – Dawei Development Association and the Tenasserim River and Indigenous People Networks – also implicated Energy Earth.

According to the report, East Star Co has been operating a 60-acre open-pit coal mine at Khon Chaung Gyi village in Ban Chaung for more than three years, and plans to expand to 2,100 acres.

Saw Tin Oo, a local resident, said that many villagers are now suffering air and water pollution and land confiscation.

According to the report, at least 23 villages, home to approximately 16,000 people, are likely to suffer serious harm to their health, livelihoods and way of life if the project resumes. Nine of these villages are located along the Ban Chaung River, where residents are gravely concerned about toxic contamination of the river and its tributary streams from mining operations.

Based on village surveys carried out by the research team from December 2012 to July 2015, it is estimated that 6,750 villagers would be directly affected by pollution of the Ban Chaung River, as they rely on it for drinking water, transport, fishing and irrigation. Eight villages are likely to suffer impacts downstream from the coal-mining site, along the Tanintharyi River, affecting an additional estimated 3,000 people.

Six villages would be impacted by road construction by Thai Asset Co to transport coal from the mining site, affecting about 6,000 people.