Burma - Tenasserim Villagers Angered by Tin Mine Impacts

Date of publication: 
16 February 2015

RANGOON — More than 100 villagers from the Tenasserim Division village of Myaung Pyo have staged a protest at the nearby Heinda mine on Monday, angered by the massive open-cut operation’s calamitous toll on nearby farmland and water tables.

The villagers, joined by Dawei-based civil society groups and representatives of local political parties, marched from Myaung Pyo to petition workers at the Heinda site, demanding that the mine’s impact on nearby settlements be addressed. Myaung Pyo is the worst affected of about 10 villages that suffer from the environmental impacts of the tin-ore mining operations, located about 25 km east of Dawei town.

“We are protesting because we have had flooding in the village, spoiling our drinking and domestic water, and sedimentation from the mining project,” Mee Gan, a resident of Myaung Pyo told The Irrawaddy.

The Heinda mine is operated by the Myanmar Pongpipat Company, a Thai firm which signed a production-sharing agreement in 1999 with the state-owned Mining Enterprise No. 2. 65 percent of the tin and tungsten produced by the mine is shipped across the border to Thailand for processing.

Last year, the Dawei Development Association said the Heinda mine has affected dozens of villages downstream from the mine through sedimentation and contamination of the Tenasserim River.

Mee Gan is one of nine plaintiffs who brought a civil suit against the mine to the Dawei District Court last May. The complaint states that villagers have suffered for years as a result of mining activities in the area, and seeks compensation for damage to homes and farmland allegedly caused by wastewater from the Heinda mine.

The court is currently hearing testimony from the plaintiffs, according to Tin Tin Thet a lawyer representing the complainants. She told The Irrawaddy that conflict between Heinda workers and Myaung Pyo villagers was continuing.

“Some days ago, a man in a bulldozer came and started to dig up the land of one of my clients,” she said. “She drove him away.”

According to Mee Gan, about 38 homes are directly suffering from damage caused by periodic flooding and sedimentation. The Myanmar Pongpipat Company earlier offered the nine plaintiffs a total compensation package of US$5000, which the villagers have refused.

Khin Swan, Pongpipat manager of the Heinda project could not be reached by The Irrawaddy on Monday, with a staffer at the firm saying the manager was unavailable because he was conducting a visit to the Heinda mine. Aung Kyaw Oo, General Manager of Tesasserim Division’s Ministry of Mines, could not be reached as he was travelling to Naypyidaw.