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Phondo mine in Lhundrub County and local protests, Tibet, China

In April 2011 residents took to the streets in protest against the mining operation. Many people were beaten by the security forces and six Tibetans were arrested. On August 2014, they have been confirmed to be in Drapchi prison, Lhasa.


Lhundrub County is located in the Phenpo Valley, around 65 km northeast of Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet. The Nyenchen Tanglha mountains pass through the county, as does the Lhasa River. The area is agricultural and contains around one third of the prefecture’s cultivated land. The main crops are barley, wheat, rapeseed and vegetables. The county also has mineral resources, including lead, zinc, barite, coal and gypsum, and two hydropower stations. Lhundrub County has been the scene of Chinese mining operations since 1998. [4]  The Chinese government had started preparations for its mining project named “Phondo Chubey Gaktsel” in the area with promises of job creation and generating income for the local Tibetan population. [2]   A Tibetan exile source said “However, the mining officials did not fulfill their promises, and instead caused environmental destruction and harm to livestock by blasts and explosions on a large scale”. [2]   In 2009 the Chinese government also started damming the Yarlung Tsangpo in Lhundrub County, the source of the Brahmaputra River. Local residents were told that the dam would bring benefits to the local community. Instead, the dam is causing damage to the local environment. In fact local Tibetans also suspect that mining will take place once the river is contained. [1]. In 2009, the authorities forcefully removed 119 Tibetan homes from the vicinity of the mining site, an area which is now said to be under water. Promised support for the transition did not materialize and many Tibetans found it difficult, especially those who were previously farmers or nomads. [1]  After appeals to the local government to halt the mining operations went unheeded, on April 2011 residents took to the streets in protest against the mining operation  which had already caused enough damage to the local Tibetans. [3]  The authorities told the opponents they would be arrested and charged with political crimes. [1]   Consequently many people were beaten by the security forces during the protest and six Tibetans were subsequently arrested in the same month. [4]  On August 2014, three years after their arrest, six Tibetans have been confirmed to be in Drapchi prison, Lhasa. Kunga and Pema were both sentenced to 12 years, Ngawang Yeshi, Choeyang Woser and Penpa Gyalpo to 11 years and Pema Gyalpo to 8 years. [1] On 2014, Zhang Qingli, then secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Regional (TAR) Committee of the Communist Party (CCP) of China, had said that the Chinese government would explore Tibet's minerals in a “justified and intensive way” in the coming five years. [2]   

Basic Data
Name of conflict: Phondo mine in Lhundrub County and local protests, Tibet, China
State or province:Lhundrub County in Tibet Autonomous Region
Location of conflict: Phenpo Valley in Lhasa Municipality
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
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Lead
gypsum; barite
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:01/04/2011
Company names or state enterprises:Phondo Chubey Gaktsel from China
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Tibet: Environment and Development:;
Tibet Watch:;
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Forms of mobilization:Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Potential: Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsPotential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Land dispossession, Violations of human rights
Potential: Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Prior to the protest, a number of Tibetan households had been forced to relocate in order to accommodate mining projects. On April 2011, local Tibetans made numerous requests for the mining to be halted but were told anyone who was opposed to it would be arrested and charged with political crimes. In fact on 2014, three years after their arrest, six Tibetans have been confirmed to be in Drapchi prison, Lhasa.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

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

International Campaign for Tibet, U.S. State Department details rights abuses, raises concern on Tibet in 2015 Annual Human Rights Report, April 13, 2016
[click to view]

[1] Free Tibet, MISSING TIBETANS CONFIRMED JAILED, 11th August 2014
[click to view]

[2] Phayul, Six Tibetans sentenced upto 12 years for 2011 mining protest in Phenpo, August 5 2014
[click to view]

[3] Tibetsociety, Anti-mining protestors jailed for up to 12 years
[click to view]

[5] Livejournal, Tibetans continue to protest against the Chinese mining projects, August 9 2014
[click to view]

[6] UNPO, UNREPRESENTED NATIONS AND PEOPLES ORGANIZATION, Tibet: Anti-Mining Protesters Face Harsh Sentences, 7 August 2014
[click to view]

Tibet: Environment and Development
[click to view], Hat tibetit tizenkét évig terjedő börtönbüntetésekre ítéltek egy 2011-es bányászat elleni tüntetés miatt, augusztus 5 2014
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Myriam Bartolucci, EjAtlas internship researcher, [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2276
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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