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Pinpet iron mine and steel factory, Shan State, Myanmar


Description

Located in war-torn Shan State, the Burmese and Russian-backed Pinpet iron exploitation and processing project has transformed the area into the country’s largest iron mine. The mine and the iron processing factory have caused strong adverse impacts on local ethnic Pa-O and on the environment. 

The development of the project was marked by secrecy and a lack of transparency [1,2]. Militarization of the area surrounding Mt. Pinpet (locally known as ‘Pine Tree Mountain’) increased since 1991, when first attempts were made to explore the mine. Several military camps were set up since then and two military universities were established in 2004. In the same year, five Russian, Burmese and reportedly also an Italian company started to develop the iron deposit and to build an ore processing plant and a cement factory. The subsequent years were marked by a growing influx of outside laborers and the arrival of high ranking military generals and Russian personnel. In 2006, the Russian state-owned company Tyazhpromexport Ltd. announced to provide 150 million USD in equipment for the project. In the same year, a road to the abandoned underground tunnels from previous exploitation attempts was constructed. The iron mine was reportedly near completion in 2010 [1,2 see also project details, below]. It took however until 2016 to start the iron ore processing at the Pinpet factory [3]. 

There has been persistent speculation that the mine exploits not only iron and limestone, but also uranium. These fears were fueled by the announcement of Rosatom (Russia’s atomic energy agency) in 2007 that Russia was to build a nuclear research center and reactor in Burma [1,2]. 

Concerns over devastating social impacts accompanied the construction work. No impact assessments were made available to the public and there was a complete lack of community consultation or participation during project planning and implementation, stated a report [see 1]. The report, published by the civil society group Pa-O Youth Organization (PYO) in 2009, estimated that about 7,000 villagers living in 25 villages next to Mt. Pinpet were to be displaced permanently from their homes and farmlands. Most of them were from the Pa-O ethnic minority - the second largest ethnic group in Shan State. Local military forces were deployed to relocate families, confiscate land and intimidate communities [1]. About 11,000 acres (ca. 4,450 ha) of farmlands were confiscated with little or no compensation offered [1,2]. Once the construction work started, locals were furthermore denied access to Mt. Pinpet and the community forests located in the area were encroached by the companies. The mountain had been an important livelihood resource for hunting, medical herbs and collection of livelihood resources.  It was deforested through the development of the open-pit mine [1].

Land and livelihood loss was followed by rising concerns over health problems from pollution, food shortages and a series of other issues. Pollution from toxic mine tailings endangered clean water sources of Hopone Valley and high levels of arsenic were found in soil samples surrounding the area. In total, about 35,000 people relying on the watershed of the Thabet Stream have been threatened by the pollution of the project, stated the civil society report [1,2]. Ancient pagodas were damaged due to explosions from the construction of the mine [1]. While local people were promised employment, most of the jobs were given to migrant workers. The influx of male workers and soldiers from central Burma reportedly led to sexual harassment of local women [1]. The working conditions for the migrant workers were dangerous and several fatal accidents were documented. In 2007, for instance, a rock crashing machine killed seven people at once, stated the report [1]. 

Villagers and local civil society groups began to oppose the project since its implementation started in 2004. They held prayer ceremonies to protect their natural resources and culture (see videos, below). The civil society group PYO, set up in 1998 by monks, women and youth, began a three-years investigation under difficult conditions, because available information remained scarce due to the secrecy of the Burmese authorities implementing the project [2]. As a result, PYO published the report “Robbing the Future” in 2009, which exposed the abuses and impacts of the Pinpet iron mine and processing plant. The group and the villagers called on the involved companies and agencies to repair the damages caused and to stop all activities until a transparent social and environmental impact assessment would be conducted [1]. Leaflets and videos documenting the situation followed and a campaign was launched to oppose the iron mine, based on the findings of the civil society research report [4]. Despite the social mobilizations and opposition to the project, the iron mine started operations. 

In 2016, the ministry of industry announced that also the Tyazhphrom PinPet steel factory (also known as No. 2 Steel Mill (Pang Pet) [6]) would open in June or July of the same year [3]. Less than one year later, in March 2017, NLD lawmakers announced however the possible suspension of 44 state-owned factories, largely because of financial concerns. As stated by one party member [cited in 5] “they are not economically viable and may not do any good for the country and the people”. Among the factories that were subsequently suspended was the Steel Mill at Pinpet mountain. Further studies and an examination of individual projects were planned to be conducted to determine the future of the factories [5]. 

Basic Data

NamePinpet iron mine and steel factory, Shan State, Myanmar
CountryMyanmar
ProvinceShan State
SiteMount Pinpet, Taunggyi 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
Uranium extraction
Tailings from mines
Land acquisition conflicts
Deforestation
Metal refineries
Other industries
Specific CommoditiesLand
Cement
Uranium
Iron ore
Steel

Project Details and Actors

Project DetailsPinpet is also referred to as Penpet, Pangpet, Pengpek or Pinngo [1].

Mount Pinpet covers about 800 ha. Containing the second largest known iron ore deposit in Myanmar, the mountain has a long history of attempts to develop its mineral resources. It is also rich in other mineral resources such as copper, limestone, wolfram and tin. The presence of uranium deposits has long been suspected but never made public officially [1].

According to the 2009 PYO report, the Pinpet deposits are the second largest known deposits of iron ore in Myanmar. They consist of estimated reserves of 10 million tons of hematite (56.4% iron) and 70 million tons of limonite (42.6% iron). Furthermore, about 30 million tons of limestone, used to make cement, are deposited in the mountain [1].

Iron ore deposits at Mt. Pinpet were discovered in 1951. First attempts to explore the mine were made in 1961 but stalled in 1962 after Burma’s first military coup. A second attempt followed the 1991 ceasefire agreement. The military arrived to secure the area and land confiscations started. The activities were stalled again, this time, however due to lack of funds. Since 2003, the attempts to explore the mountain have moved forward. The mine, the iron ore processing factory and the cement factory have been established on an area covering 11,000 acres (ca. 4,450 ha) [1].

According to the Myanmar’s Ministry of Industry, the iron processing factory (termed No. 2 Pen pet Steel factory), has a capacity to produce about 200,000 tons of pig iron annually [6]. The contract for the processing factory was signed on 20.11.2004 [6].

According to the PYO report form 2009, the following five companies have been involved in the project: Tyazhpromexport Co., Ltd. (Russia, state-owned), Kyaw That Company Ltd. (Myanmar), Kanbawza Development Co. Ltd (Burma), Winner Super Diamond Co. Ltd., (Burma) and Myanmar Economic Corporation (Burma). The Italian company Danieli & C. Soa was also believed to be involved, although this information was not confirmed [1,7].

No good data are available on investment size. The PYO report from 2009 mentions that Tyazhpromexport company invested 150 million USD in equipment, while Kanbawza Development Co. Ltd. invested 60 million USD into the Pinpet Cement Factory [1].
Project Area (in hectares)ca. 4,450
Level of Investment (in USD)at least 210,000,000 USD
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population35,000
Start Date2004
Company Names or State EnterprisesMyanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) from Myanmar
Tyazhpromexport Cl., Ltd. from Russian Federation - operator and developer
Winner Super Diamond Co. Ltd (WSD) from Myanmar
Danieli & C. Soa from Italy - believed to be involved [7], but not confirmed.
Kyaw That Company Ltd. from Myanmar
Kanbawza Development Co. Ltd - operates the cement factory
Relevant government actorsBurma's past military regime

Ministry of Mining

Ministry of Industry
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersPa-Oh Youth Organization (PYO), http://paoyouthorganization.blogspot.com/

and others

The Conflict and the Mobilization

Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Women
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Religious groups
ethnic Pa-O groups
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Mine tailing spills
Potential: Waste overflow, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Deaths
OtherSeveral mine workers have died [1]
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Migration/displacement
New legislation
Project temporarily suspended
Compensation was insufficient, if available at all.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The mine and the factories were developed with severe social and environmental impacts. (The iron ore processing factory was temporarily suspended. No information on the current state of the factory could be found.)

Sources and Materials

Legislations

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

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

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

References

[7] Vignat E., (2014). “Shan State in Myanmar’s Problematic Nation-building and Regional Integration: Conflict and Development”. Chapter in “Transnational Dynamics in Southeast Asia: The Greater Mekong Subregion and Malacca Straits Economic Corridors” (edited by Nathalie Fau, Sirivanh Khonthapane, Christian Taillard). pages 191-220, ISEAS Publishing, Singapore.
https://books.google.es/boks?id=unr3AwAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

[1] PYO 2009 "Robbing the Future: Russian-backed Mining Project Threatens Pa-O Communities in Shan State, Burma". Published by Pa-O Youth Organization (PYO) in June 2009. (accessed online 18.06.2018).
http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs07/Robbing_the_Future(en).pdf

Links

[5] Frontier Myanmar, 20 March 2017 "NLD lawmakers shutter dozens of state factories". (accessed online 18.06.2018).
https://frontiermyanmar.net/en/nld-lawmakers-shutter-dozens-of-state-factories

[4] PYO Press release embargoed for October 27, 2010 "Pa-Oh youth launch campaign to oppose damaging impacts of Burma’slargest iron mine". (accessed online 18.06.2018).
https://de.scribd.com/doc/40214222/Press-release-in-English

Wikipedia on the Pinpet Mining Project, Myanmar
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinpet_Mining_Project

[3] Myanmar Business Today, 24 April 2016 "Steel Factory in Shan State to Open by July". (accessed online 18.06.2018).
https://www.mmbiztoday.com/articles/steel-factory-shan-state-open-july

[2] The Ecologist article by Roberts J., 5 Novemeber 2010 "'Thousands threatened' by giant iron mine in Burma". (accessed online 18.06.2018).
https://theecologist.org/2010/nov/05/thousands-threatened-giant-iron-mine-burma

[6] Ministry of Industry, webpage on No(2) Steel Mill (Pang Pet). (accessed online 18.06.2018).
http://www.industry.gov.mm/en/content/no2-steel-mill-pang-pet

Media Links

Video based on the "Robbing the Future" report, update October 2010. (accessed online 18.06.2018).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3EuaCHy1REk

Video about Pinpet Burma's Largest iron mine and its impacts on local people. (accessed online 18.06.2018).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7bxAUx7Xjc

Other Documents

Steel factory under construction Source:Myanmar Business Today, https://www.mmbiztoday.com/articles/steel-factory-shan-state-open-july
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Pen_Pet_Iron_factort.jpg

Mt. Pinpet before project start Source: PYO 2009 "Robbing the Future: Russian-backed Mining Project Threatens Pa-O Communities in Shan State, Burma". Published by Pa-O Youth Organization (PYO) in June 2009. http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs07/Robbing_the_Future(en).pdf
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/a_Mt_Pinpet.png

Militarization accompanying the construction activities Source: PYO 2009 "Robbing the Future: Russian-backed Mining Project Threatens Pa-O Communities in Shan State, Burma". Published by Pa-O Youth Organization (PYO) in June 2009. http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs07/Robbing_the_Future(en).pdf
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/a_construction__militarization.png

Map of project area (2009)
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/a_map_of_pinpet_area_2009.png

Cover of the civil society report Source: PYO 2009 "Robbing the Future: Russian-backed Mining Project Threatens Pa-O Communities in Shan State, Burma". Published by Pa-O Youth Organization (PYO) in June 2009. http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs07/Robbing_the_Future(en).pdf
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/a_report_cover.png

Temples damaged by the mine development Source: PYO 2009 "Robbing the Future: Russian-backed Mining Project Threatens Pa-O Communities in Shan State, Burma". Published by Pa-O Youth Organization (PYO) in June 2009. http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs07/Robbing_the_Future(en).pdf
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/a_damaged_temples.png

Meta Information

ContributorEJatlas Southeast Asia Team (ejatlas.asia"at"gmail.com)
Last update20/06/2018

Images

 

Steel factory under construction

Source:Myanmar Business Today, https://www.mmbiztoday.com/articles/steel-factory-shan-state-open-july

Mt. Pinpet before project start

Source: PYO 2009 "Robbing the Future: Russian-backed Mining Project Threatens Pa-O Communities in Shan State, Burma". Published by Pa-O Youth Organization (PYO) in June 2009. http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs07/Robbing_the_Future(en).pdf

Militarization accompanying the construction activities

Source: PYO 2009 "Robbing the Future: Russian-backed Mining Project Threatens Pa-O Communities in Shan State, Burma". Published by Pa-O Youth Organization (PYO) in June 2009. http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs07/Robbing_the_Future(en).pdf

Map of project area (2009)

 

Cover of the civil society report

Source: PYO 2009 "Robbing the Future: Russian-backed Mining Project Threatens Pa-O Communities in Shan State, Burma". Published by Pa-O Youth Organization (PYO) in June 2009. http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs07/Robbing_the_Future(en).pdf

Temples damaged by the mine development

Source: PYO 2009 "Robbing the Future: Russian-backed Mining Project Threatens Pa-O Communities in Shan State, Burma". Published by Pa-O Youth Organization (PYO) in June 2009. http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs07/Robbing_the_Future(en).pdf