Lhara Village's community stopped a gold mine project,Tibet

In the Spring 2009, the community of Lhara Village began a very strong protest to protect an holy mountain, against a gold mine project by Chinese mining firm, Zhongkai Co. After months of standoff both sides agreed that the mine would cease operations.


Description
In spring 2009 the Chinese mining firm, Zhongkai Co., has been authorized to excavate the area, Ser Ngol Lo, planned for gold mine in Tsangshul sub-district (Lhara Village, Markham County, Chamdo Prefecture in the Tibet Autonomous Region's). In Tibetan Ser Ngol Lo means ‘Year of Gold and Silver’. It is a place which locals consider a sacred mountain and that they have historically worshiped, conducting rituals in the event of drought [1]. Consequently, the native population began to protest with a peaceful occupation of the area by hundreds of Tibetans. The authorities responded by sending in armed security forces, up to 300 armed policemen, according to Radio Free Asia. Residents protested blocking the access to the area even though the authorities insist on excavating the mountain [1]. Pema Thinley, vice chairman of the Tibetan Communist Party, was sent to Markham to try to convince the local population to accept the mine as well, but without success. In fact the residents continued their demonstration, and Pema Thinley was escorted back to Lhasa, the regional capital [2]. On 16 May, a contingent of police and security forces arrived, but as many as 500 Tibetans blocked the road leading to the planned mine. Since then they have been there night and day, whilst the Chinese stayed at a nearby school [1]. A local Tibetan said security forces had cut off the protesters from the rest of the village. In fact the man said “They blocked all phones and even cellphones aren’t reachable”; “We can’t reach any of the protesters. Today another four vehicles with roughly 30 to 40 soldiers in them went to the protest site. But the Tibetans all put religious books on their heads and are vowing to resist [2]. An other resident said “that they are ready to die to protect the sacred hill”[1]. The standoff has been going on for several months, more or less three or four months until June 8, 2009 when both sides agreed that the mine would cease operations [3]. A local Tibetan man, speaking on condition of anonymity said: "It was agreed in writing that there will be no mining in the area"; "All the Chinese security forces deployed in the area will be withdrawn. The Tibetans who are blocking the road will also return to their respective areas"; "Chinese authorities will build concrete barriers to block the poisonous residue of earlier mining in the area so that this will not filter down into the drinking water" [3]. All points of agreement were set down in writing in the presence of prefecture- and county-level officials, and the area was quiet. But disagreement remained on the question of handling poisonous waste from the site. In fact a Markham Public Security Bureau officer said: "The government has offered to clean the whole area, but the Tibetans want to hold [the residue] as evidence. So it was decided that the Tibetans will hire a professional group from China to examine it, and the government will assign the TAR Environmental Protection Department to carry out its own examination." The matter will be referred back to officials at the county, prefecture, and TAR levels if it cannot be finally resolved, he said. [3]
Basic Data
NameLhara Village's community stopped a gold mine project,Tibet
CountryChina
ProvinceMarkham county
SiteSerNgul Lo, Lhara Village, Chamdo Prefecture,TAR
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Mineral ore exploration
Specific CommoditiesGold
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsGold and copper are at the heart of China’s 12th Five-Year Plan for Tibet. In Tibet Autonomous Region, in 2011, chromite mining is in steady decline, even though China has no other domestic source for a metal essential to the manufacture of stainless steel; and copper mining has barely begun. Only gold is mined intensively, in many locations, usually illegally, in defiance of official policy that encourages large scale mining and outlaws small scale operators. Both copper and gold prices have risen steadily to record highs, at a time when China’s demand is at an all-time high, the global price rise being the result. There is little reason to think the prices of either will fall significantly any time soon, providing strong incentives for extraction from Tibet [4].
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Start Date01/03/2009
End Date08/06/2009
Company Names or State EnterprisesZhongkai Company from China
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Land occupation
Street protest/marches
The protesters stayed day and nigh blocking the road leading to the planned mine [1] ; The protesters put religious books on their heads and are vowing to resist [2].
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Other[5] Green Tibet
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Land dispossession
Other[5] Green Tibet
Outcome
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseProject cancelled
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.The standoff has been going on for several months, more or less three-four months thanks to the local community's determination. On June, 8 2009, Tibetan residents and Chinese authorities agreed that the mine would cease operations and all points of agreement were set down in writing in the presence of prefecture- and county-level officials [3].
Sources and Materials
References

[4] Copper and gold mining in Tibet, Copper and gold mining in Tibet, October 11 2011 by rukor-admin
[click to view]

“Environmental Protest on the Tibetan plateau” released by Britain based Tibet Watch, January 2015
[click to view]

[5]Green Tibet, Annual Newsletter 2011, Environment and Development Desk
[click to view]

Links

[1]Asianews.it, Hundreds of Tibetans ready to die to defend ‘sacred mountain’ from destruction, 05/26/2009
[click to view]

[2] Radio Free Asia, Standoff at Tibet Gold Mine, 2009-05-24
[click to view]

[3]Meltdownintibet.com , Standoff ai Tibet gold mine,May 24, 2009; Update: Mine dispute largely settled, June 9, 2009
[click to view]

Other Documents

Environmental damage caused by years of mining near Lhasa. Undated Photo: Woeser [2] Radio Free Asia, Standoff at Tibet Gold Mine, 2009-05-24
http://www.rfa.org/english/news/tibet/mine-05242009130753.html
[click to view]

[1]Asianews.it, Hundreds of Tibetans ready to die to defend ‘sacred mountain’ from destruction, 05/26/2009
http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Hundreds-of-Tibetans-ready-to-die-to-defend-%E2%80%98sacred-mountain%E2%80%99-from-destruction-15353.html
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorMyriam Bartolucci, EjAtlas internship researcher, myriam.bartolucci@gmail.com
Last update23/05/2016
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