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Protests against mining of lithium by the Lichu River in Kangding, TAP Ganzi, Sichuan, China

Beginning from 2005, in Minyak Lhagang the lithium-mining operations by Ronda Lithium Co, have caused polluting and killing fish in the Lung River, affecting water and livelihood of Tibetans. Many local protests have led to halt the plant temporary.


In the last years beginning from 2005, the lithium-mining operations, in the area of the Kargyaka (Ch: Gajika) site near Balang village in Minyak Lhagang (Ch: Tagong), Dartsedo County ( Ch: Kangding) in Karze Prefecture, has caused  many Tibetan villagers protesters against the company Ronda Lithium Co Ltd, for polluting and killing fish in the Lung River, a tributary of Nakchu/Yalong river, the biggest river that merges with Yangtse downstream. [4] [5].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Protests against mining of lithium by the Lichu River in Kangding, TAP Ganzi, Sichuan, China
State or province:Karze Prefecture, Sichuan province
Location of conflict:Lichu River in Minyak Lhagang, Dartsedo County (also called Kangding, Tachienlua and Dardo)
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
Mineral processing
Specific commodities:Lithium
Project Details and Actors
Project details

China's growing demand for minerals put the Tibetan Plateau at the forefront of its policies to profit from potential mining sites. Lithium based batteries have higher capacity to store power, are lighter in weight and cheaper than nickel metal hydride, form of batteries earlier used in tablets, smartphones and in electric and hybrid cars. In front of subsidy of electric vehicles and steadily growing lithium price will meet the demand of China's huge appetite for lithium from other countries in the future, for the Chinese government, the only solution is to mine the Tibetan Plateau. In fact Tibet has more than 90% of China's lithium reserves. This will in turn cut the cost and reduce China's dependence on other countries for lithium and will aid China's continued influence on lithium price in the global market. [1]

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Type of populationSemi-urban
Start of the conflict:01/01/2005
Company names or state enterprises:Ronda Lithium Co Ltd from China
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Tibetan nomads[2]
Forms of mobilization:Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
On 13 October 2013, Tibetans from the affected villages gathered at Lhagang township government offices to present a petition calling for an end to the environmental destruction. They brought large quantities of the dead fish with them as evidence, which they displayed outside the office[4]; A number of Tibetans took to social media to vent their frustration and appeal for a solution
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Other Environmental impacts, Food insecurity (crop damage)
Potential: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Other Environmental impactsLandslides[2];
The death of hundreds of fish is caused by the poisoned water from the water leaching site by mining. The optimum pH level of majority of the aquatic animals lies between pH 6.5 to 9. Any further change in the optimum pH causes strain on animal physiology, reduces hatching and survival rate. Aquatic animals are more sensitive towards acids than alkalis. A change in pH with 0.5 towards acid from pure water (pH 7) causes aquatic animals in an abnormal environment and cannot survive when the pH level is lower than 3. Highly concentrated acids in the local river due to leakage of water leaching site may have altered the level of pH to as low as 3 causing death of fish and damage to the entire local river ecosystem. The water leaching site might contain organic wastes (dead plants and animals) since the mining site was closed for a few years, the organic wastes drained into river water are decomposed by aerobic bacteria. Decomposition of the organic wastes is a major function of aerobic bacteria to provide nutrient to aquatic animals and requires oxygen which in turn cause depletion in oxygen level to other aquatic animals. High concentration of nitrates and phosphate if present in the contaminated water can be a factor lowering dissolved oxygen and causing high mortality rate of fish. [1]
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Militarization and increased police presence
Other socio-economic impacts[4]Tibet Watch
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Under negotiation
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The plant was closed many time in the last years after protests, in front of the evidence of the mining's responsibility for the river's pollution. However this happened without penalization for the company and until now, without any compensation for damaging river ecosystem to the local Tibetans who are dependent on the river for their daily livelihood[1]. For the last protest in May 2016, although the mining's halt appears likely to be temporary, it is a significant move by the local authorities. [3].
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[8]Law of the People's Republic of China on Prevention and Control of Water Pollution, 1996, Article 85 states: "The party whose rights and interests are damaged by a water pollution accident is entitled to ask the party discharging pollutants to eliminate the damage and make compensation for their loss-es." [1]
[click to view]

[9]ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT LAW OF THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA, 2003; Article 5 of the EIA states: "The state shall encourage all relevant units, experts and the public to participate in the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) in proper ways."[1]
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[4]Tibet Watch, “Environmental Protest on the Tibetan plateau”, January 2015, pp. 14-15
[click to view]

[7] Rukor-admin, TIBETAN LITHIUM IN YOUR POCKET, November 6, 2015
[click to view]

Gabriel Lafitte, ‘Spoiling Tibet: China and Resource Nationalism on the Roof of the World’, Zed Books, 2013

[1]Tibet: Environmental and Desk, Tenzin Palden, Lichu River Poisoned : Case of Minyak Lhagang Lithium Mine Protest, 8 June 2016
[click to view]

[2]The Tibet post, Tibetans protest against Chinese mining in Minyak County, Tibet, 06 May 2016
[click to view]

[3]International Campaign For Tibet, Temporary halt to mining after protest in eastern Tibet: the rush to invest in Tibet’s lithium, MAY 9, 2016
[click to view]

[5]Radio Free Asia, Tibetans Protest Restart of Operations by Chinese Mining Company, May 9, 2016
[click to view]

[6]Yeshi Dorje, Chinese Police Clamp Down on Tibetan Mining Protest, Voice of America, May 06, 2016
[click to view]

Social Page on Tibet, Case of Minyak Lhagang Lithium Mine Protest, June 6, 2016, READ MORE AT:
[click to view], Lichu River Poisoned – Case of Minyak Lhagang Lithium Mine Protest, June 6, 2016
[click to view]

Sitesunyata,Temporary halt to mining after protest in eastern Tibet: the rush to invest in Ti-bet’s lithium, May 10, 2016
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[6] Activists Protest Mining Operations in Yeshi Dorje, Chinese Police Clamp Down on Tibetan Mining Protest, Voice of America, May 06, 2016
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Myriam Bartolucci, EJAtlas internship researcher, [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2344
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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