Demonstrations against Burma-China nickel project in Chin State
12 August 2013: Hundreds of demonstrators, mainly from the Zomi groups in exile, have protested against the Gullu Mual nickel project in Tedim Township of Chin State, Burma.
The events call for an immediate stop to the nickel mining project, a joint venture between Burma’s government and mining companies from China.
A statement released by the World Zomi Congress (WZC) said the groups condemned the partnership that would only exploit the natural resources of the indigenous people in Chin State.
Khaibawi, President of the Zomi Innkuan, was quoted as saying the local people became aware of the project only through recent media reports in Burma.
It is estimated that at least 30 villages in the surrounding of Gullu Mual, known in Burmese as Mwetaung or Mwe Hill would be affected.
Four nickel deposit areas in Mwe Hill, Webula Hill, Hakhalay and Nat Hill and four chromites areas in Mwe Hill, Webula Hill, Hakhalay, Nat Hill, Bopibun, Muwelut, Maungtaw-Hnamataw and Falam were found, according to the New Light of Myanmar on 27 September 2011.
The government-run newspaper said the record states that there would be 110.57 million tons of nickel ore and 38,100 tons of chromites ore in Chin State.
An activist group of the Gullu Mwetaung Nickel Movement called for a total suspension of the mining project, saying: “If the mining has to be continued, the mining company must follow international laws and standards.”
Kalay-based Chinland Natural Resources Watch Group said people in the affected areas must participate in the decision-making process about the use of their local resources and related infrastructure development without fearing persecution.
It also demanded transparency and sustainable business practices through communication that would engage the government, the companies involved, and local communities affected by the project.
Several other Chin civil society groups including the Chin Student Union in Kalay and the Kuki Women’s Human Rights Organization (KWHRO) also raised their concerns over development projects in Chin State, the least developed state in the country.
“Residents in mining areas are put at health risks such as respiratory and skin diseases due to water and air pollution. The destruction of Gullu Mual, a major supplier of agricultural products, and many parts in Chin State also poses an impact to food security to its peoples in the long run,” said KWHRO.
The New Light of Myanmar in 2011 said North Mining Investment Co Ltd of China, China Nonferrous Metal Industry’s Foreign Engineering & Construction Co Ltd and Guiling Research Institute of Geology for Mineral Resources held discussions on exploration and production of the deposit.
A 2008 report by the Earthrights International said Kingbao (Jinbao) Mining Co. signed agreements with the Ministry of Mining No. 3 in Burma to conduct exploration and feasibility studies at the Mwetaung nickel deposit in Chin State that contains proven nickel reserves in excess of 10 million tons.
Kingbao (Jinbao) Mining Co. is a joint subsidiary of Gold Mountain (Hong Kong) International Mining Co. and Wanbao Mining Co., both of which control 50% of the company. Gold Mountain (Hong Kong) International Mining Co. is itself a wholly-owned subsidiary of Zijing Mining Co., while Wanbao Mining Co. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of China North Industries (NORINCO).
“The entry of large, foreign-dominated mining companies goes beyond environmental issues. It is primarily a glaring face of land grabbing,” added the Kuki Women’s Human Rights Organization (KWHRO).
In recent months, the anti-Gullu nickel project demonstrations took place in front of Burmese embassies in India, Australia and USA, with more protests being organized in other foreign countries.
In response to a question raised in Amyotha Hluttaw sessions by a Chin MP on 26 September 2011, Union Minister for Mines U Thein Htaik said the Mineral Exploration Corporation of the Ministry of Mines conducted tests for chromites at Mwe Hill region of Tiddim [Tedim] Township in Chin State in 1965-66 and the Geological Survey and Mineral Exploration Department in 1973, 1982 and 1999.#