Magwe res­i­dents al­lege aban­doned mine still pol­lut­ing

The Myanmar Times - - News - NAY AUNG nayaung@mm­times.com

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

Photo: Si Thu Lwin

FDA of­fi­cials sam­ple prod­ucts from chilli shops and food colour­ing shops at Man­dalay’s Ze­gyo Mar­ket.

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