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Mong Len gold mining, Shan state, Myanmar


Description:

Industrial gold mining in the hills of Mong Len in eastern Shan State has caused much concern and resistance by nearby residents. The area of Loi Kham, meaning “Golden Hills” in Shan, has been known since long for its valuable deposits. Villagers traditionally used to pan gold in the Nam Kham stream, but no large-scale mining was present until 2007. Since 2007, over ten companies have arrived and transformed the area into an extractive gold mining site, based on heavy equipment and industrial mining methods including the use of cyanide. Villagers who have been suffering from the mining activities have demanded a cancellation of the activities, the restoration of their farming lands and livelihood assets, as well as a compensation for the damages caused [1,2]. 

Several reports and press releases from civil society groups - the Shan State Farmers’ Network (SSFN), the Shan Women’s Action Network (SWAN), and the Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) – have documented severe impacts on the villages and the surrounding environment [1,2,3,4]. According to these reports, about 11km2 (1,100 ha) of forested hillsides have been dug up for gold mining [1,2]. The two villages located downstream the mining site, Na Hai Long and Weng Manaw with a total population of 340 people, have been most severely affected. Mining waste has blocked and polluted streams, soils and groundwater and provoked the flooding of agricultural lands. According to a report from 2015 [1], 168 acres (about 68 ha) of rice fields and orchards have been completely destroyed and another 130 acres (about 53 ha) have become unusable because of siltation of land and nearby water bodies. Cyanide-filled water ponds, used to separate the gold from the rocks, have been periodically drained and the toxic water has been released unfiltered into the Nam Kham stream. Consequently, villagers complain that they have lost clean water sources for drinking, bathing, washing, and the cultivation of fish and shrimps. Farm animals and fishes in the ponds have died because of toxic pollution. Health issues, such as itchy skin and other diseases have appeared among the residents [1,2]. The villagers are particularly concerned that pregnant women could be adversely affected by the toxic runoff from the mining - several babies were born with health problems and some have also died [1]. The livelihood loss caused by the environmental and farmland degradation has provoked a series of socio-economic impacts. Poverty has been rising and some families were not able anymore to send their children to school. Some were forced to migrate to seek work outside the village [1,2,5]. Others had to rent land further away, but competition over land has also caused land conflicts [2]. 

Militarization and violent clashes in the area have increased as Border Guard Forces begun to work as security guards for the mining companies [1,2]. On October 13, 2015, Loong Sarm a resident from Na Hai Long village, was fatally shot by soldiers who were protecting the mining operations [1, see also 6]. The civil society groups explained that he was part of an unarmed group of villagers who went to monitor the mining activities in the hills above his village. The company manager of the Loi Khm Long mine warned them: “Don’t go up there or the Burmese soldiers will shoot you.” [1, page 26]. Despite of the group’s decision to return to the village, fire was opened, and the farmer was shot in his knee and badly injured. He died the same day in the hospital [1]. (for a detailed description of the events, see 1, page 26]. Villagers and civil society groups have demanded the prosecution of the responsible soldiers [7]. Over 300 Shan farmers from different areas came to the ceremony in Na Hai Long village to honor the shot farmer [8]. His family tried to sue the soldiers over court, who however claimed they shot in ‘self-defense’ [3,5]. 

Active resistance from the community against the mining begun in 2012, when appeals to the local authorities and companies were made to stop the mining activities – however, with no result [1]. In early 2014, villagers, together with the Shan Farmers’ Network, decided to launch a campaign to stop mining in the area. A booklet was compiled that documented the impacts and meetings with the Shan State Mining and Forestry Minister were set up to raise the villagers’ concerns on July 14, 2014 [1]. Two days later, a press conference was held, in which the affected residents issued three demands [1,3]. First, the companies must stop their activities and remove their equipment from the area. Second, the companies must restore the fields and waterways of the villages. Third, compensation at a rate of 660,000 kyat/acre must be paid for the damaged fields. In response to communities’ demands, the Shan State Mining Minister traveled on August 5, 2014, to Tachilek to meet impacted villagers and company representatives. He subsequently ordered the companies to comply with the villagers’ demands [1]. 

Despite these orders, and after an initial halt, mining however continued [1]. According to the civil society reports, only one of the companies, Sai Thip Co., stopped their activities, while the others continued and failed to meet the community’s demands [1]. While some parts of the water ways and roads were restored by the companies, the efforts were not lasting. Rainfall and ongoing release of mining waste silted up again the stream. Also, some compensation was provided at the requested rate, however not for all the impacted lands and fishponds [1, see also 5]. Furthermore, the companies also attempted to divide the community. For instance, village leaders were targeted to sign letters stating they would support the mining because of the “development assistance” they had received from companies ([1], page 22; [2] page 10). Further attempts to “buy the silence of villagers” followed, explained the Shan Human Rights Foundation [3]. 

Between August 2014 and May 2015, villagers closely monitored the area through several trips to the mining sites [1]. Meetings with the Mining Minister and Shan State government officials followed, who promised villagers that they would take action to stop them. However, on May 28, 2015, the Minister informed the villagers that he could not stop the companies because they were granted permission by the central Union government, hence, the villagers should stop “making problems” ([1], page 12). 

No information could be found that the situation has improved since then. Villagers seem to continue struggling for protecting their rights and for holding the mining companies accountable for the damages they caused [1]. 

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Mong Len gold mining, Shan state, Myanmar
Country:Myanmar
State or province:Shan state
Location of conflict:West Mong Len tract of Ta Ler sub-township, Tachilek township
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
Tailings from mines
Specific commodities:Land
Gold

Project Details and Actors

Project details:

An area of about 1,100 ha has been dug up by more than ten companies in the Loi Kham hills in the West Mong Len tract of Ta Ler sub-township [2].

The two most severely impacted villages, Na Hai Long and Weng Manaw, have a population of about 340 people [1]. Over 1,500 villages in eight villages are furthermore threatened as the gold mining expands [2].

About ten companies are active in the larger Mon Len gold mining area. In 2007, the companies Sai Lao Herng Co., Minn Oo Aung Co., Hein Linn Sann Co., Sann Baramee Co. and Wanna Thein Than Co. begun to mine for gold in the area. They were soon followed by other companies, i.e. Sai Thip Co., Loi Kham Long Co., Sai Saik Pyo Ye Co., Shwe Taung Co. and KML Co. [2].

Gold mining in Mong Len next to Na Hai Long and Weng Manaw is carried out by Sai Thip Co., Loi Kham Long Co. and Sai Saik Pyo Ye Co. [1].

Project area:1,100
Level of Investment:unknown
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:340 - 1500
Start of the conflict:2007
Company names or state enterprises:Sai Thip Co. from Myanmar - gold mining company
Loi Kham Long Mining Co. from Myanmar - gold mining company
Sai Saik Pyo Ye Co. from Myanmar - gold mining company
Sai Lao Herng Co. from Myanmar - gold mining company
Minn Oo Aung Co.my from Myanmar - gold mining company
Hein Linn Sann Co. from Myanmar - gold mining company
Sann Baramee Co. from Myanmar - gold mining company
Wanna Thein Than Co. from Myanmar - gold mining company
KML Co. from Myanmar - gold mining company
Shwe Taung Corporation from Myanmar - gold mining
Relevant government actors:Union government of Myanmar
Shan State government
Shan Minister of Mining and Forestry
Border Guard Forces (BGF)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Shan State Farmers’ Network (SSFN)
Shan Women’s Action Network (SWAN), www.shanwomen.org
Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF), http://www.shanhumanrights.org/
And others

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Artisanal miners
Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Women
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
ethnic Shan
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Other environmental related diseases
Potential: Malnutrition, Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsExposure to toxic cyanide and used for gold mining.
Itchy skin due to exposure to polluted water.
Violent clashes between security forces and villagers .
Impacts on pregnant women are a concern for locals. Several babies faced health issues and some have died.
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Migration/displacement
Repression
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Project temporarily suspended
Compensation was insufficient, according to villagers.
Only small parts of the damaged river and roads were restored, according to villagers.
Death of farmer Loong Sarm who was shot and badly injured in a clash between villagers and security forces. Others were injured during the clashes.
Development of alternatives:According to the report [1], the affected villagers demand the following:
1. The mining companies must completely stop their gold mining operations and remove all their equipment from the mining area.
2. The companies must restore the fields and waterways of Na Hai Long to their former state, to the satisfaction of the villagers.
3. They must provide compensation for all 300 acres of damaged fields at the annual rate of 660,000 MMK per acre, and must also pay the actual cost of the land, as this land is now completely unusable.
4. The villagers are calling for all those responsible for the killing of Loong Sarm to be brought to justice.
The villagers also call for constitutional reform to devolve federal powers to state and regional levels, so that decisions on mining concessions and other natural resource extraction are not made at the Naypyidaw level. Finally, villagers call for a nationwide ban on the use of cyanide and other dangerous chemicals in mining operations in Burma.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Industrial gold mining has continued in the area.

Sources and Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

1994 Myanmar Mines Law
https://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/ELECTRONIC/73051/74522/F234335194/MMR73051.pdf

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

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

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

[1] Shan State Farmers’ Network (SSFN), 2016, "Broken promises: deadly gold mining continues in Mong Len". (accessed online 9.10.2018).
http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs21/SSFN-2016-03-19-Broken_Promises-en-red.pdf

[2] Shan Farmers' Network, "Stop Gold Mining in Mong Len!". (accessed online 9.10.2018).
http://www.shanwomen.org/tai/images/pressrelease/Gold-mining-leaflet-in-Eng.pdf

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[5] The Myanmar Times, 07 March 2016. "Shan civil society groups call for gold mining suspension". (accessed online 9.10.2018).
https://www.mmtimes.com/business/19342-shan-civil-society-groups-call-for-gold-mining-suspension.html

[6] The Myanmar TImes, 16 October 2015. "Shan rights groups call for action after mine shooting". (accessed online 9.10.2018).
https://www.mmtimes.com/national-news/17039-shan-rights-groups-call-for-action-after-mine-shooting.html

[7] Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF), News Update, 14 November, 2015. "Burma Army soldiers who opened fire on villagers at eastern Shan State gold mine must be prosecuted". (accessed online 9.10.2018).
http://www.shanhumanrights.org/eng/index.php/270-burma-army-soldiers-who-opened-fire-on-villagers-at-eastern-shan-state-gold-mine-must-be-prosecuted

[3] Press Release by the Shan Farmers’ Network, 16 July 2014. "Eastern Shan State villagers call for an immediate end to destructive gold mining operations". (accessed online 9.10.2018).
https://www.shanwomen.org/publications/press-releases/101-press-release-by-the-shan-farmers-network

[4] Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF), News Update, 03 May 2016. "Gold mining companies try to buy silence of villagers impacted by toxic waste in eastern Shan State". (accessed online 9.10.2018).
https://www.shanhumanrights.org/eng/index.php/289-gold-mining-companies-try-to-buy-silence-of-villagers-impacted-by-toxic-waste-in-eastern-shan-state

Other documents

Damaged rice fields Source: Shan State Farmers’ Network (SSFN). http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs21/SSFN-2016-03-19-Broken_Promises-en-red.pdf
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/a__damaged_rice_fields.png

Bulldozers at a mining site Source: Shan State Farmers’ Network (SSFN). http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs21/SSFN-2016-03-19-Broken_Promises-en-red.pdf
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/a_bulldozers_mining_site.png

Report cover Source: Shan State Farmers’ Network (SSFN). http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs21/SSFN-2016-03-19-Broken_Promises-en-red.pdf
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/a_report_cover.png

Toxic cyanide Source: Shan State Farmers’ Network (SSFN). http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs21/SSFN-2016-03-19-Broken_Promises-en-red.pdf
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/a_toxic_cyanide.png

Villagers monitor the mining site Source: Shan State Farmers’ Network (SSFN). http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs21/SSFN-2016-03-19-Broken_Promises-en-red.pdf
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/a_villagers_monitoring_mining_site.png

Map Source: Shan Human Rights Foundation. http://www.shanhumanrights.org/eng/index.php/270-burma-army-soldiers-who-opened-fire-on-villagers-at-eastern-shan-state-gold-mine-must-be-prosecuted
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/b_map.jpg

Ceremony to honor the shot farmer Loong Sarm Source: Shan Human Rights Foundation. http://www.shanhumanrights.org/eng/index.php/284-2016-02-27-10-42-06
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/c_ceremony_to_honor_shot_farmer.jpg

Gold mining in the Loi Kham hills Source: Shan Farmers’ Network. http://www.shanwomen.org/tai/images/pressrelease/Gold-mining-leaflet-in-Eng.pdf
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/d_gold_mining_in_the_Loi_Khm_hills.png

Military security forces Source: Shan Farmers’ Network. http://www.shanwomen.org/tai/images/pressrelease/Gold-mining-leaflet-in-Eng.pdf
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/d_military_security_forces.png

Poisoned animals Source: Shan Farmers’ Network. http://www.shanwomen.org/tai/images/pressrelease/Gold-mining-leaflet-in-Eng.pdf
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/d_poisoned_animals.png

Meta information

Contributor:EJatlas Southeast Asia Team (ejatlas.asia"at"gmail.com)
Last update12/10/2018

Images

 

Poisoned animals

Source: Shan Farmers’ Network. http://www.shanwomen.org/tai/images/pressrelease/Gold-mining-leaflet-in-Eng.pdf

Damaged rice fields

Source: Shan State Farmers’ Network (SSFN). http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs21/SSFN-2016-03-19-Broken_Promises-en-red.pdf

Bulldozers at a mining site

Source: Shan State Farmers’ Network (SSFN). http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs21/SSFN-2016-03-19-Broken_Promises-en-red.pdf

Report cover

Source: Shan State Farmers’ Network (SSFN). http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs21/SSFN-2016-03-19-Broken_Promises-en-red.pdf

Toxic cyanide

Source: Shan State Farmers’ Network (SSFN). http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs21/SSFN-2016-03-19-Broken_Promises-en-red.pdf

Map

Source: Shan Human Rights Foundation. http://www.shanhumanrights.org/eng/index.php/270-burma-army-soldiers-who-opened-fire-on-villagers-at-eastern-shan-state-gold-mine-must-be-prosecuted

Ceremony to honor the shot farmer Loong Sarm

Source: Shan Human Rights Foundation. http://www.shanhumanrights.org/eng/index.php/284-2016-02-27-10-42-06

Gold mining in the Loi Kham hills

Source: Shan Farmers’ Network. http://www.shanwomen.org/tai/images/pressrelease/Gold-mining-leaflet-in-Eng.pdf

Military security forces

Source: Shan Farmers’ Network. http://www.shanwomen.org/tai/images/pressrelease/Gold-mining-leaflet-in-Eng.pdf

Villagers monitor the mining site

Source: Shan State Farmers’ Network (SSFN). http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs21/SSFN-2016-03-19-Broken_Promises-en-red.pdf