MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Gold Mining Risks to People - and Dolphins - in Burma

Published by MAC on 2003-01-01

Gold Mining Risks to People - and Dolphins - in Burma

from: Eric Snider, Canada

During a visit to Burma's Kachin state last week General Khin Nyunt took time out to urge the people of Mogaung and Mohnyin townships to be on guard to "ward off foreign instigations" and "forces, relying on big powers, [who] are trying to hinder our efforts for the development of the State."

[source: New Light of Myanmar, January 1 2003]

Hopefully, the general also took time out to "listen" to some of the real concerns of those he was busy lecturing. A news item broadcast by DVB radio on January 1 spoke of risks facing the people from landslides resulting from mining operations along the Ayeyawaddy which are also polluting the river thoughout the state. "Quicksilver [mercury]used in extracting gold is poisoning water and threatening numerous species of fish and aquatic plants. ... Pollutants, silt and suspended particles in the river mean that it is no longer safe to drink or swim."

If the general and his cronies need any hard evidence to convince them of the poisonous effects of quicksilver and the explosives used for some fishing operations along the river they should look at the findings of a recent survey carried out by the Wildlife Conservation Society on the dramatic decline in the number of dolphins in the Ayewaddy (see following article).

No need for the generals and the Kachin people to go after "foreign instigators" to get to the root of this problem. Just get started by having a heart to heart talk with the Northern Region Commander in Myitkyina and the directors of the Northern Star Trading company who are responsible for all the permits being issued to "fly-by-night" out-of-state mining operators. Not even $ 350-an-ounce-gold is worth paying the price of poisoning your own people.

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