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Published on Monday, 26 November 2012 06:20
China-backed copper mines in central Myanmar. (Photo-EMG)
Parliament approved on November 23 the formation of an independent commission to assess the social and environmental impacts of China-backed copper mines in central Myanmar.
A parliamentary representative of the National League for Democracy Party submitted the proposal to review the social and environmental impact and on national interest of the copper mines.
According to figures presented to Parliament by MP Khin San Hlaing, the survey made with the assistance of the Japanese government between 1972 and 1974 showed that two copper mines, namely Sabetaung and Sabetaung South, had 94 million tonnes of copper ore deposits.
The Myanmar Ivanhoe Copper Company Ltd (MICCL) in 2007 estimated that Lapataungtaung copper deposits were possibly 1,478 tonnes of copper ore.
The MP said: “Local farmers are now faced with the prospect of having to abandon their land after receiving compensation for the loss of three crop harvests, lose their livelihood, harm their traditional lifestyles and risk damage to their health because of the copper extraction and purification processes.”
Commercial copper production by MICCL started in 1996 after the signing of a “Production Sharing Contract” between the company and the Ministry of Mines with 50 per cent stake for each in the joint venture.
Then the 50-per-cent ministry shares were transferred to the quasi state-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings (UMEH), and MICCL also handed over all of its stake to the China North Industries Corp on December 31, 2010.
The total copper production from this project was worth US$153million from 20,000 tonnes of copper up to August 2012.
The reports said that Myanmar Yang TSE Copper Ltd (MYTCL) will invest US$396 million in Sabetaung, Sabetaung South and Kyisintaung copper mines, while Myanmar Wan-bao Mining Copper Ltd will invest $997million in the Lapataungtaung deposits. UMEH has made a “Production Sharing Contract” with these two foreign companies.
UMEH is one of two major conglomerates run by the military through the Ministry of Defence, the other being the Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC).
Regarding the proposal of the MP, Defence Minister Lt-General Wai Lwin explained that the locals have been compensated 3,708 million kyats for 6,785 acres of agricultural land and 442 million kyats for perennial plants.
Wai Lwin said, “Our country did not enjoy development for more than 20 years because of sanctions during the military government. At present, protest against the projects is a problem for the development of the country. However, Parliament can form an independent body to review the copper-mine projects of our corporation. If the projects are beneficial to the country, Parliament is requested to allow our corporation to continue the projects.”