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Heinda tin mine, Dawei, Myanmar


Description:

The Heinda mine is among the oldest tin mines in Myanmar. Established during British colonial rule, the mine has been continuously operated for about 100 years. During World War II, much of Burma’s tin industry was destroyed and the mine entered a period of low operations for several decades. The mine gained importance again in 1999, when the Thai-owned company Myanmar Pongpipat Ltd. (MPC) took over operations (see project details). Since then, production has substantially increased. Around 10 villages are located close to the mine that, according to villagers, civil society groups, and journalists, have suffered from severe socio-environmental impacts. Myaung Pyo village has been among the most affected villages [1,2,3,4,5].

Controversies date back at least to 1983, when Myaung Pyo village had to be relocated to make way for the mining development. According to a report from the Dawei Pro Bono Lawyers Network (DPLN) [1], no compensation or funds to support the relocation were provided to the villagers. The replacement land they received was smaller than the land they originally occupied. The relocation happened without formal documentation and was never recognized by the Ministry of Home Affairs, probably due to administrative mistakes. Despite that villagers - after their relocation - have resided for more than 30 years in the village, the current mine operators have claimed that Myaung Pyo village is illegal and that the area forms part of their concession area. Villagers have been excluded from adequate consultation during the mine development and the renewal of investment permits in 2009 and 2014 [1]. 

Severe environmental impacts have been reported that changed the economy of Myaung Pyo villagers, who relied on cultivation of durian, betelnut, rubber, coconut, cashew and other crops [1]. The mine was reported to have encroached their lands, watersheds and homes, while jeopardizing their health and livelihoods. Artisanal tin miners, who have been panning for tin in the river without significant environmental impacts for decades, have also been affected. Water pollution was observed to increase with growing tin extraction [1]. Since 2005, the Myaung Pyo creek has been periodically flooded with polluted water from the mine. The mine’s impacts became severe in 2008, when heavy rainfalls hit the mine. Sediments washed down and accumulated in the watershed upon which thousands of households relied. The worst flooding occurred between August and November 2012, when 27 houses were destroyed and villagers’ crops were ruined. The Myaung Pyo river was the villagers’ most important source of drinking water that was then lost due to pollution. According to the DPLN report, water tests conducted during 2013 and 2014 found that lead and arsenic toxicity levels were substantially higher than the limits set by the World Health Organization for drinking water standards (35-190 times higher for lead and 8 times for arsenic toxicity). Significant health impacts, particularly on children, were reported [1]. Following the livelihood losses, several villagers had to migrate to Thailand and other places in search for new income sources. Many family members who have stayed in the village depend now on their remittance payments [1]. 

The affected villagers from Myaung Pyo sought justice through the juridical system and through protests and advocacy activities. After the 2012 floodings, villagers demanded compensations for the damages caused, however without success. Several complaint letters to government authorities followed. While subsequently, an investigation team was sent to the village to assess the damages, villagers reported that their assessments did not cover all their damages. Compensation was eventually offered; however, it was not enough and villagers refused to accept it. Instead, they sought help from the Dawei Lawyer’s Group and the Dawei Pro Bono Lawyers Network (DPLN) [1]. On May 9, 2014, the villagers filed a lawsuit against the two companies, claiming adequate compensation for the damages caused and the income losses provoked by the destruction of their livelihood assets. The Dawei District court first decided in favor of the plaintiffs, however, the defends appealed on procedural concerns. The decision was then overturned by the Tanintharyi Divisional Court in favor of the defendants [1]. In June 2016, the case went up to the Union government’s High Court. While the court agreed that the plaintiffs had a valid cause of action in negligence, the Court also agreed that the companies cannot be sued due to procedural defects in the notice letter. The plaintiffs lost the case. The villagers took the case then to a special appeal board at the Supreme Court for a final decision, however, the suit was rejected in a final ruling during February 2018 [2].

Nevertheless, against the backdrop of the growing controversies over the mine, the Tanintharyi Regional Government started to pursue stricter regulations and supervision of mining in the area [1,3]. MPC had to suspend mining operations during 2016 until a valid Environmental Management Plan had been submitted. Mining operations resumed however a few months after suspension [1,4]. Advocacy efforts were also directed to the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT), through a complaint letter sent in 2015. The letter petitioned the NHRCT to ensure human rights compliance of the Thai-owned company MPC [1]. An investigation was opened by NHRCT during 2017 [4]. The case was also covered by several news articles [e.g. 2,3,4,5,]. One article, written by Thai journalist Pratch Rujivanarom during March 2017, provoked the company to sue the author for defamation. In response, more than 80 NGOs urged the Thai government to immediately withdraw the case over concerns of press freedom [5]. 

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Heinda tin mine, Dawei, Myanmar
Country:Myanmar
State or province:Tanintharyi region
Location of conflict:Myitta Township, Dawei District
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Mineral ore exploration
Tailings from mines
Specific commodities:Tin, Tungsten
Land

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The Heinda tin mine is located in the Tenasserim Hills, 25km northeast of Dawei, and covers a concession area of 2110 acres (ca. 854 ha). The area includes three open-pit placer mines [1].

The mine was established during British colonial rule. It formed part of a cluster of tin mines located close to Dawei that produced for Burma’s flourishing tin and tungsten industry until the late 1930s. Much of this industry was however destroyed during World War II. During the following military rule, the mine remained under low production [1, see also 6].

In July 1999, the Thai-owned company Myanmar Pongpipat Ltd (MPC) was given the exclusive right to operate the mine together with the state-owned company No. 2 Mining Enterprise (ME2) that operates under the Authority of the Department of Mines, which belongs to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC). The right was granted under a Production Sharing Agreement: MPC holds the right of 65%, while ME2 holds the right of the remaining 35% of production, inclusive a 4% share as royalty to the Department of Mines. MPC has mainly run the operations of the ground, while ME2 has mainly facilitated the investment [1].

MPC’s Investment Permit was renewed by the Myanmar Investment Commission in 2009 and 2014. Through the establishment of the Union Government in 2012, stricter environmental laws were put in place to which the companies must adhere [1].

In average years, tin production amounts to about 1-2 tons every day [1]. Tin and tungsten concentrate is mainly exported for processing to China, Thailand and Malaysia. Much of the tin extracted from the Heinda mine is sent to Thailand for refining [1].

Tin is extracted through hydraulic methods, requiring large quantities of water from the local watershed [1].

Around 10 villages are located in the Heinda village tract, including Myaung Pyo village, Lower Heinda village, YaePhu Wa village, Heinda Pyin village, Phautletto village, KyaePaung Chaung village, Kyaut Twin village and Wa Swan Chaung village. According to a 2015 census, the village tract is comprised of 1,100 households, or 53,000 people. Villagers are of mixed ethnicity and from different religious groups, including Dawei, Kayin and Muslim groups [1].

Project area:854
Level of Investment:unknown
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:ca. 53,000
Start of the conflict:1999
Company names or state enterprises:No. 2 Mining Enterprise ME2 (ME2) from Myanmar - operating company
Myanmar Pongpipat Company Ltd (MPC) (MPC) from Thailand - operating company
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation [MONREC]
Department of Mines
Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC)
Myanmar Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA)
Ministry of Home Affairs
and others
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Dawei Lawyer’s Groups,
Dawei Pro Bono Lawyers Network DPLN
Takapaw
Dawei Development Association
and others

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Artisanal miners
Farmers
Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Dawei ethnicity (administratively treated as sub-group of Bamar)
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Refusal of compensation

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Mine tailing spills
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts
Other Health impactshigh toxic levels of lead and arsen found in water streams [1]
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Potential: Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Violations of human rights

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Migration/displacement
Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project temporarily suspended
compensation was also refused because it was too little
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The project goes on and villagers have lost the court case. However, it should be noted that the controversies around the mine contributed to stricter supervision of mining in the area.

Sources & Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

2015 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Procedure
http://www.myanmar-responsiblebusiness.org/resources/environmental-impact-assessment-procedures.html

2012 Environmental Conservation Law
http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs15/2012-environmental_conservation_law-PH_law-09-2012-en.pdf

2014 Environmental Conservation Rules
http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs21/2014-06-Environmental_Conservation_Rules-en.pdf

2012 Foreign Investment Law
http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs15/Foreign_Investment_Law-21-2012-en.pdf

1909 Limitation Act
http://www.myanmarconstitutionaltribunal.org.mm/lawdatabase/sites/default/files/myanmar_code/2016/11/9-1908%20THE%20LIMITATION%20ACT.pdf

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

[1] DPLN, 2017. "Case Study of the Heinda Mine, Dawei", produced by Dawei Pro-Bono Lawyers Network (DPLN). 71 pages.

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[4] Channel News Asia, 5 April 2017. "Thai-owned mine in Myanmar investigated for human rights violations".
https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/thai-owned-mine-in-myanmar-investigated-for-human-rights-violati-8710266

[2] The Irrawaddy, 7 February, 2018. "Farmers Lose Lengthy Court Battle Against Thai, Govt Mine". (accessed online, 30.04.2018).
https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/farmers-lose-lengthy-court-battle-thai-govt-mine.html

[6] Gardiner, N. and Sykes, J. and Trench, A. and Robb, L. 2015. Tin mining in Myanmar: Production and potential. Resources Policy. 46, Part 2: pp. 219-233.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301420715000938

Business & Human Rigths: Myanmar Pongpipat lawsuit (re environmental & health impact of Heinda tin mine)
https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/myanmar-pongpipat-lawsuit-re-environmental-health-impact-of-heinda-tin-mine-0

The Myanmar Times, 21 March 2016. "One villager’s struggle for justice at Heinda tin mine". (accessed online, 30.04.2018).
https://www.mmtimes.com/business/19562-one-villager-s-struggle-for-justice-at-heinda-tin-mine.html

[3] Myanmar Times, 17 August 2016. "Tanintharyi tightens mining oversight". (accessed online, 30.04.2018).
https://www.mmtimes.com/business/22005-tanintharyi-tightens-mining-oversight.html

[5] Asian Correspondent, 17 May 2017. "Burma: 80 NGOs urge Thai govt to support press freedom, condemn mining firm". (accessed online, 30.04.2018).
https://asiancorrespondent.com/2017/05/burma-80-ngos-urge-thai-govt-support-press-freedom-condemn-mining-firm/#mI4mj5LRFTdIMGKJ.97

Meta information

Contributor:EJatlas Southeast Asia Team (ejatlas.asia"at"gmail.com)
Last update01/05/2018

Images

 

River pollution

Source: Channel news Asia, see https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/thai-owned-mine-in-myanmar-investigated-for-human-rights-violati-8710266

Satellite view

Source: Google Maps

Artisanal tin mining

Source: DPLN, 2017. "Case Study of the Heinda Mine, Dawei", produced by Dawei Pro-Bono Lawyers Network (DPLN). 71 pages.