Magwe residents allege abandoned mine still polluting
SLAG and coal dust from an abandoned mine is fouling rivers and blighting fields, say farmers in Magwe Region. They say the environmental damage caused by the mine continues to wreak havoc even after it was closed.
The mine was opened about 1 mile from Kanni village in Magwe Region’s Minhla township in 2013, near the Kyauk Nwatho River, said local resident Daw Aye Nwet.
Tailings and coal dust from the mine were dumped into the river and contaminated rice and sesame fields to either side, said farmer U Thant Myint, of Kanni village.
“We lost paddy last year because the crops were covered with slag at harvest time. We couldn’t plant this year because the mixture of coal dust and mud covered the fields at least thigh-deep.”
U Phone, a farmer in the village, said coal trucks thundered past day and night.
“They gave us K50,000 when they started digging,” he said. “They dug a patch of 10 square feet on my land. I couldn’t plant last year or this year.”
Residents say village streets and local roads were torn up by bulldozers, coal trucks and heavy plant used by the mine.
Daw Aye Nwet said, “The mine operated day and night, rain or shine for years. The coal trucks destroyed the Pathein-Monywa road through the village. They went backward and forward non-stop.”
Now residents say farmers with lands along the river and people who use the water for drinking are feeling stiff and nauseous because of the effects of the coal dust that contaminated the Kyauk Nwatho River. Worse, the tailings piles are burning, and combustion continues even when it rains.
“The fire is burning inside, despite the rain,” said U Phone, of Kanni village.
In response to a petition from local farmers demanding the Magwe Region Chief Minister U Aung Moe Nyo intervene and launch an investigation into the environmental damage and financial losses, the chief minister responded by saying locals could file a lawsuit if they believe they had suffered losses, said U Than Myint.
‘We couldn’t plant this year because the mixture of coal dust and mud covered the fields at least thighdeep.’
Kanni village farmer
U Thant Myint
Despite repeated attempts to call the chief minister’s office, a representative could not be reached to comment.
U Myo Myint Oo, an official of the EITI (Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative) in Magwe Region, said, “Local residents invited me to review the environmental damage a year ago. At first, we were not allowed to enter, but we got in and looked around.” He said the workers there appeared to be Chinese.
“The slag heaps dug last October had been thrown into the river. At that time, I warned that the farmlands in Kanni village would be affected when the rains came. Nothing seems to have been done over the past year.”
– Translation by San Layy
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