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Monywa Letpadaung copper mine, Sagaing, Myanmar

Violent repression, incendiary phosphorus and the killing of a woman protester mark the development of this large copper mine. Affected people, activists and international organisations mobilize for an immediate halt of operations.


Myanmar is rich in mineral resources and has sought to increase investment into its extractive industries since the transition towards a market-based economy in 2011. The Monywa copper mining complex, comprised of the Letpadaung and the Sabetaung and Kyisintaung (S&K) mines, is Myanmar’s largest copper mining project. It is co-operated by the Chinese company Wanbao Mining, the military and the government of Myanmar (see project details). As several reports by civil society organisations have shown, the mine has caused massive human rights concerns over evictions and use of violence against protesters, as well as concerns over environmental destruction affecting local communities [1,2,3,4]. A strong movement of protesters in alliance with civil society organizations are opposing the mine [5,9]. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Monywa Letpadaung copper mine, Sagaing, Myanmar
State or province:Sagaing region
Location of conflict:Salingyi Township, Monywa district
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Chemical industries
Mineral ore exploration
Tailings from mines
Specific commodities:Copper
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Letpadaung copper mine is part of the Monywa copper project, which also contains the Sabetaung and Kyisintaung (S&K) copper mines, as well as the Moe Gyo sulphuric acid factory. Letpadaung is the largest of the Monywa deposits and accounts for 75% of the total copper reserves. The other deposits have been developed under the S&M mine [1,2,3]. For the Letpadaung mine, production quantity is expected to reach 100,000 tons of cathode copper/year [1]. First copper production was announced in May 2016 [3].

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Project area:2,746ha (+ 809ha extension)
Level of Investment for the conflictive project1,000,000,000 USD (mine extension)
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:several thousands
Start of the conflict:1996
Company names or state enterprises:Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper Ltd. from Myanmar - operating company
Chinese Wanbao Mining Copper Ltd. from China - Parent company/ operating company
Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. (UMEHL) from Myanmar - partner company
NORINCO International Cooperation Ltd. (NORINCO International ) from China
Ivanhoe Mines from Canada
Relevant government actors:Army of Myanmar
Ministry of Industry
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Save the Letpadaung Committee (SLC)
88 Generation
Amnesty International
Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC)
and others
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Mine tailing spills, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow)
Potential: Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The conflict continues in 2018.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

The Myanmar Mines Law
[click to view]

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

[click to view]

[2] Amnesty International, 2015. MYANMAR: OPEN FOR BUSINESS? CORPORATE CRIME AND ABUSES AT MYANMAR COPPER MINE. (accessed 12.03.2018).
[click to view]

[3] Wikipedia on the Letpadaung Monywa Copper Mine
[click to view]

[4] The Irrawaddy, 20 November 2012. Monywa Copper Mining Protest Resumes. (accessed 12.03.2018).
[click to view]

[5] Heinrich Böll Stiftung Myanmar. Foreign-investment-induced conflicts in Myanmar - The Monywa Copper Mine. (accessed 12.03.2018).
[click to view]

[6] The Guardian, 29 November 2012. Burma: riot police move in to break up copper mine protest. (accessed 12.03.2018).
[click to view]

[7] Myanmar Times, 18 March 2013. Fury over Letpadaung copper mine report. (accessed 12.03.2018).
[click to view]

[8] Reuters, 6 May 2016. Hundreds protest restart of China-backed copper mine in Myanmar. (accessed 12.03.2018).
[click to view]

[9] Open Democracy, Michael Caster, 3 Auguts 2015. Against Letpadaung: copper mining in Myanmar and the struggle for human rights. (accessed 12.03.2018).
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:EJatlas Southeast Asia Team ("at"
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3237
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