Women urge halt to expansion of damaging Karenni tin mines
A report by the Molo Women Mining Watch Network
The Mawchi tin mines have inflicted decades of environmental and social damage in southern Karenni State and new expansion plans should be halted, according to a new report by a network of local women.
Lost paradise, by the Molo Women Mining Watch Network, details how hundreds of mine tunnels spanning about 3,000 acres have caused lethal landslides, water pollution and deforestation, impacting about 4,500 indigenous villagers.
Health problems, loss of farmlands and depletion of water sources, including the Molo stream that flows through Mawchi into the Salween River, have particularly impacted women. Many are now eking a living as nugget collectors around the mines.
Locals are gravely worried by government plans announced in August 2012 to expand the mines, as world demand increases for tin. The mines are jointly controlled by No. 2 Mining Ministry and the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited, and are operated by the Kayah State Mining Company Ltd, headed by ex-military officer U Ye Tun Tin, USDP MP for Pasaung township. Two Burma Army battalions provide security for the mines.
Residents of Saethongon village, regularly shaken by mining detonations beneath their homes, fear that further mining expansion will make it too dangerous to stay in the area. A woman was buried alive in her home by a landslide last year.
“Dangerous mines must be shut down immediately,” said Molo network spokeswoman Naw Ah Mu. “Without legal safeguards ensuring protection and benefit for local people, we don’t want any more mining in our lands.”
The Molo network are urging constitutional reform to grant people of Karenni State the right to decide on the sale and use of mineral resources in their lands.
The Mawchi mines have been in operation since British colonial times, and were once the world’s main source of tungsten.