“During the rainy season, the smell from the coal tailings is very bad. It will affect our health in the long run,” Sai Lu, who lives in Wan Kham Nar village, Mong Kong township, Loilam District, Southern Shan State, told SHAN about the coal mining in the area.
The smell from the burning coal waste is spreading through the whole Wan Kham Nar village, Mong Kung township, during raining season.
Locals are concerned that the smell would have a negative impact on their health.
In 2014, two companies, Pyae Aung Hein and Hein Myitta, are requesting a coal mining project, locating two miles southeast of Mong Kung township.
The five years mining project permit was granted by the union government to the two companies in 2015.
The companies only started mining in January, 2017 due to various factors.
Later on, the concerned Mong Kung locals including venerable monks collaborated and protested against the mining projects. Even though the companies discontinued the project, the coal refuses still remain in the area.
Because of those coal wastes, it has affected the locals lives particularly in agriculture and health.
Last mid-year, a 17 years old youth had stepped on a burning coal tailings and secured a severe injury.
“Teenagers visited around the mining site. Underneath the coal tailings, it is still burning. He stepped into that and penetrated into the burning waste. So, two of his legs got burned severely,” a Wan Kham Nar native, Nang Noan, told SHAN.
Due to the burning injury, the 17 years old Sai San cannot walk properly yet, and he also sustained a scar like vertigo.
He is the first person who got injured by the coal wastes left by the companies in Mong Kung township.
“Teenagers tend to go outing around that area. It was fine in the past because it was not easily eroded. But now the waste layer got thinner, and if they step into it, it will go through easily into the burning waste. That’s how he got injured,” Nang Noan added.
According to her, the companies did not take any responsibilities or whatsoever for the injured teenage.
The natives are worried about the danger of the burning coal waste because it kept burning.
“We are worried about not only the people living around here but also the animals like cows and buffalos,” Lone Kham expressed his concerns to SHAN.
He also added that the companies left the wastes like that after taking all the coal, and it is dangerous for the locals. Therefore, we would like to request the responsible companies to clean up their wastes here.
The Impacts of the Coal Mining Project
The coal mining has brought many negative impacts on the natural resources and agricultural farming. Additionally, 21-wheel big trucks were used to transport the coal which resulted damages to the roads. Most often, the trucks were not properly covered during transportation which may have health concerns for those living along the enroute from Mong Kung to its destination.
The biggest concern is the water passing through the coal tailings which makes it toxic, then the contaminated water is sinking into the water sources and stream like Nam Thein river.
Therefore, it is dangerous for the villagers and locals who rely on Nam Thein river for agriculture and livestock farming.
If the companies will continue the coal mining, it will add up the toxic into the streams where people are depending on for farming.
“In the past, not many natural disasters occur around here. Right now, there is little damage compare to the past if not at all. Because of the coal mining, farming could become difficult, and the soil could become infertile,” a Mong Kung resident, Sai Lu, told SHAN.
Mong Kung residents are heavily living on agriculture and livestock farming, and they are anxious about the danger of the piles of coal waste from the mining project.
“The coal wastes are toxic, and when it is raining, the water becomes toxic, and when it is windy, the waste are in the air. Those contaminated water and air could damage our farming. We want the companies to remove those coal wastes,” a native explained the situation to SHAN.
Armed conflicts have recently been reported in Mong Kong where coal is abundant, and the residents have to leave their home and farms behind and seek for safety nearby townships.
Two Shan ethnic armed forces are fighting one another in Mong Kung, and it is getting worst day by day. Thousands of villagers have to flee their homes.
The residents are questioning if the fight between the two Shan groups is because of the coal resource in Mong Kung.
The tension between the two groups has been growing for months, and the Shan community assumes that the intense fight between the two Shan armed groups is for the economic gain from the area.
“The reason the two Shan groups is fighting one another is not because of nationalism, it is not because of the politics. Shan civilians are hurt the most. Even though Shan civilian requested them to stop fighting, they will not stop. So, the fight is for their economic gain only,” one Shan activist woman told SHAN.
The situation is ambiguous for the Shan people to conclude that if the fight is linked to the permit of the coal mining project in Mong Kung township.
Even though the coal mining project in Mong Kung is suspended, the bad smell from the piles of coal wastes are troubling the villagers in Wan Kham Nar village, and they are worried that it would also affect their health in the long run.