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Gyama Mine and Landslide accident, Tibet, China

Destroying the landscape, polluting the rivers, taking away pasture land, and causing deaths to its mine workers. Read about mining expansion in occupied Tibet by Chinese companies.


Due to its tectonic formation and settings, Tibet has 132 different types of mineral resources, like copper, gold, coal, crude oil, natural gas, chromite, arsenic, asbestos, aluminum, iron ore, boron, potassium, lead, zinc and lithium. Following China’s occupation of Tibet in the 1950s and the opening up to systematic exploitation of Tibet’s rich minerals, big mining companies have shown great interest in investing there. According to the Article 9 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, Tibet’s resources are state assets available to be exploited to meet the needs of national development. Over the past sixty years, however, mineral exploitation has evolved from a marginal endeavor to a major phenomenon in China’s economic growth driven by industrialization and urbanization. As early as 1951, geological surveys were conducted and by 1991, a 3,600m long zone of copper-lead-zinc mineralization zone had been delineated. Between 1991 and 1999, number 6 Geological Brigade (Brigade 6) of the Tibet Geology and Mineral Resource Bureau conducted detailed exploration work. Based on this work, 4 mining licenses were issued to; a. Gyama Township (began operations in 2004) b. Lhasa Mining Company (began operations in 1995) c. Brigade 6 (began operations in 2003) and d. Tibet Huatailong Mining Development (began operations in 2005).

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Gyama Mine and Landslide accident, Tibet, China
State or province:Tibet Autonomous Region
Location of conflict:Gyama Velley near Lhasa
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
Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Specific commodities:Silver
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Gyama mine is in Medrogungkar (Ch: Maizhokunggar) County of the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), located within the Gangdise Porphyry Copper Metallogeny Belt in central Tibet, about 68 km from Lhasa (Figures 1a &1b). It is currently owned and operated by Tibet Huatailong Mining Development Company Limited, a subsidiary of China National Gold Group. It is a large scale polymetallic deposit consisting of copper, molybdenum, gold, silver, lead and zinc with the potential to become China‟s biggest copper producer in 10 years.

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Project area:14550
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:More than 1000 people
Company names or state enterprises:Tibet Huatailong Mining Development Company Limited (CNGC or China Gold) from China - Mining, retail, contract engineering, irradiation sterilization
China National Gold Group Corporation (China Gold) from China
Relevant government actors:Tibet Autonomous Region, China
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Environment and Development Desk, Tibet Policy Institute
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Forms of mobilization:Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Mine tailing spills, Waste overflow
Potential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Other Environmental impactsMining and processing deposits in the valley containing large amount of heavy metals, such as lead, copper, zinc and manganese are prone to leak its contaminants through seepage water and erosion of particulates, and pose therefore a future risk for the local environment and a potential threat to the downstream water quality
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Other socio-economic impactsDeath of cattles
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
83 miners lost their lives due to the landslide
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:There has been loss of pasture land for nomads, poisoning of local streams, death of cattles, death of 83 miners. Everytime, the government in collaboration with the mining company denied justice and sided with the mining company.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Scarring the land, scraping the wounds, TSERING DHUNDUP
[click to view]

China Gold International Resource Reputational Risk Report
[click to view]

[1] Radio Free Asia, Tibetans Fear New Mine is Planned For Polluted Gyama Valley
[click to view]

Environment Desk blog
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Save tibet, Disaster in Gyama draws attention to impact of mining in Tibet
[click to view], LANDSLIDE IN GYAMA MINE: natural or man-made?
[click to view]

Wikipedia on Gyama mine landslide
[click to view]

Stop Mining in Tibet
[click to view]

New York Times, Fatal Landslide Draws Attention to the Toll of Mining on Tibet
[click to view]

Landslide Induced by Frenzied Mining at Hometown of Songtsen Gampo is said to be a “Natural Disaster” By Woeser
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Photo Gallery from 2011
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Environment & Development Desk, Tibet Policy Institute
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2099
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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