MAC: Mines and Communities

Burma iron mine could destroy 7,000 Shan homes

Published by MAC on 2009-07-07
Source: By Francis Wade, Democratic Voice of Burma (2009-06-29)

Russian and Italian engineering companies are reported to be involved in the development of a huge iron ore mine in Burma's eastern Shan state that campaigners say could displace more than 7,000 homes.

The already volatile Shan state is home to Burma's second largest iron ore deposit, on the site of Mount Pinpet.

Excavation of the site began in 2004, and work includes the conversion of around 11,000 acres of surrounding land for construction of a cement factory and iron processing plant.

The Pa-O Youth Organisation (PYO), in a report released today, said that more than 25 villages home to around 7000 mainly ethnic Pa-O people could be destroyed by the Pinpet Mining Project.

"Fifty people have already been forced to move and were not adequately compensated," said the Robbing the Future report.

"The confiscation of vital farmlands has begun, leaving over 100 families without the primary source of their livelihood and sustenance."

A spokesperson from PYO said that villagers had very little, if any, input on the plans for the project.

"[The government] don't talk to the villagers, they don't negotiate with the villagers regarding plans for the mining project - they don't really discuss in advance what they are going to do," said Khun Ko Wein.

The report points to Russian company Tyazhpromexport as being the major foreign investor in the Pinpet Iron Factory, with $US150 million so far channeled into the project.

Russia maintains strong ties with Burma despite the country's ruling junta being under mounting international pressure over the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi and documented state-sanctioned human rights abuses.

An Italian company, Danieli, which claims to be one of the world's leading suppliers of equipment to the metals industry, is also highlighted in the report.

The company, who in 2007 confirmed that they operate in Burma, was unavailable for comment.

Another concern of PYO's is the link between the Pinpet mine and rumours that Burma is mining uranium, a key ingredient for nuclear weaponry.

According to the report, Burma's Ministry of Energy has officially announced the presence of five uranium deposits in the country, although has not publicly stated that these will be mined.

Speculation that uranium exists near the Pinpet site has added fuel to the rumours, with some locals fearing that the mine could be being used as a cover to exploit and refine uranium.

Such rumours have been further compounded by growing evidence that Burma is strengthening its ties with North Korea, who last month successfully tested a nuclear bomb.

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