A Mandalay-based conglomerate linked to Burma’s military is planning to restart large-scale coal mining in Hsipaw Township, which was stopped by the National League for Democracy (NLD) government.
According to the Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF), which recently released a statement calling for the end of the project, residents are opposed to the mining project because it will pollute their land in northern Shan State.
“They should consider the wishes of the local people. If the company extracts coal, it will have a negative impact on agriculture because the water will be polluted,” a spokesperson for SHRF Sai Ywad Lwin told SHAN. He said the company plans to mine coal near Nam Ma’s main water source.
The Ngwe Yee Pa Le Group of Companies signed an agreement on 2 January to stop mining in the community. However, after the military overthrew the democratic government on 1 February, the company began preparations for a large new mining site in Nam Ma village in cooperation with the Directorate of Defence Industries (the Burma Army’s weapons production division) under a 25-year concession.
According to a SHRF report, the company’s coal mining operations, which began in 2004, have devastated farmland and irrigation sources and caused water and air pollution affecting over 3,000 people.
Since the coup, Ngwe Yee Pa Le and the military have also expanded their activities in Tangyan and Mong Yai townships.
In Tangyan, tunnels were dug directly under Tak Liet village, with underground explosions shaking houses and causing large cracks in the ground. The mining caused significant pollution of the Pang River, the main tributary of the Salween River. All 82 households in Tak Liet were forced to relocate to another area, far away from their farms. Those who complained were threatened and even tortured by the pro-government Mong Ha militia.
Ngwe Yee Pa Le and the military are responsible for extracting two-thirds of the coal in northern Shan State.