MAC: Mines and Communities

Another SE Asian poisoned village

Published by MAC on 2006-01-25

Another SE Asian poisoned village

25th January 2006

An antimony mine in Burma which was shut down after protests by workers and local people has reopened following alleged bribes paid to the military regime.

The plant's product is transported to neighbouring Thailand which, according to one observer, "wouldn’t put up with" the deadly pollution created over the border.

Antimony production plant shut down after local community protest

by Kaowao

25th January 2006

Sangkhalaburi -- An antimony manufacture plant located at the Three Pagodas Pass border town was shut down for four days following employee protests over health concerns of workers and the local community, sources from the border town said.

"Three Pagodas Pass residents protested last week and the plant was shut down for four days last week; today it reopened after bribing SPDC authorities," a Mon national who wishes not to be named due to security reasons said. "They (local residents) told the SPDC authorities of a toxic odor coming from the plant," he added.

'Over forty workers of the plant do not wear masks and gloves to prevent exposure to the metal, and local residents worry for their health living so close to the manufacturing plant. Last week they told authorities about the health hazard which led to the closure for four days' the source explained.

The plant is owned by Nawarat of Thailand who signed a contract with the Rangoon government to process the metal in an area under the control of the Karen National Union. 'A Thai businessman wanted to mine for antimony in the area under KNU control, which is about a half day's drive from Three Pagodas Pass' the source added. 'There are about 60 mine workers, most of whom are Karen people, with each earning about 100 baht a day.

'The company does not dare operate inside Thailand, the local Thai wouldn't put up with the plant being there' he said. World demand for antimony is very strong in recent years and has increased 150% over the past 4 years, on the world market it sells at $3750 US dollars per tonne. (Source:

The industry produces about half a ton of antimony daily equivalent to 24 bags, one bag is 24 kilograms. 'It is then transported to Thailand for the industrial process, more trucks have been entering Burma to dig more mines in the area' the source explained further.

Antimony has a wide variety of applications used in the industrial process, it is also used in making cosmetics such as eye pencils. It is a silvery light, brittle metal and is usually mixed with other metals such as lead and zinc as alloys, which are used in industrial processing to make batteries, ammunition, pewter, semi-conductors, and sheet metal, etc.

Exposure to antimony, which is similar to arsenic in terms of affect on health, through inhalation or contact with skin or eyes, causes serious health problems. In small doses it can cause high blood pressure, dizziness, ulcers, and depression, in high doses stomach cramps, frequent vomiting, cardiac abnormalities, and death. People with
respiratory or heart problems and high blood pressure are especially at risk.

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