Burma’s Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation Ohn Win told parliament on Wednesday that a controversial coalmining project in Mong Kung Township, southern Shan State, has had no negative impact upon the environment.
His comments will undoubtedly be welcomed by the Pyae Aung Hein and Hein Mitter companies, which have recommenced operations recently at the coal mine in Mong Kung, Loilem District, despite an agreement to move out of the area by May 13.
The firms had appeared to cave in to public pressure after more than 4,000 Mong Kung’s residents staged a protest on April 11 against the coalmine operations.
Sai Seng Murng, an MP from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) representing Mong Kung, said that he had raised questions about the matter with the union minister in the Lower House, asking firstly, why the government did not listen to the grievances of local people before approving the coalmine; secondly, what the government intended to do about the issue; and thirdly, who would take responsibility for the inevitable destruction caused by the mining operations.
“Union Minister U Ohn Win replied that the coalmine operations would not cause any impact,” the SNLD lawmaker told Shan Herald on Thursday. “Minister U Ohn Win also said that he had received documents from the Shan State government, saying that they agreed to the project, and that he had reviewed the matter himself, and supported that coalmine contracts.
“However, the minister said that as the local population had protested the project, the government had suspended operations.”
The Pyae Aung Hein and Hein Mitter mining companies had been granted concessions by the central government to initiate their coalmine operation in Mong Kung Township in 2014. Although the projects were initially suspended due to local opposition, they restarted operations again in January this year.
On February 25, more than 700 people in Mong Kung, including youths, the elderly, monks and politicians, held a meeting to discuss the coal mine issue. After the meeting, 580 people signed a petition to close down the coalmine.
Locals say that when the mine reopened, the firms had employed soldiers from the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) to guard their operations.
“Now they have erected fences that have warnings written in both Shan and Burmese languages, saying: “Outsiders may not enter,” Sao Ekka Sina, a Buddhist monk who was one of the demonstration organizers, told Shan Herald on May 15.
By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)