Amnesty International released a report on Tuesday alleging “corporate crimes” at the Latpadaung copper mine stemming from the collusion of two international mining companies – Canadian firm Ivanhoe and Chinese state-backed Wanbao – with Burmese military authorities as far back as the 1990s.
Amnesty said its one-year investigation revealed the “forced evictions of thousands”, as well as substantial environmental and social impacts such as pollution and unrest within the community, coupled with long-term health implications for the villagers living near the mines.
Expropriation of land in the local Monywa area without compensation by the Burmese government had been carried out in 1996-97 for the Sabetaung and Kyisintaung (S&K) mine, and since 2011 for the Latpadaung mine to make way for lucrative corporate mining activities, resulting in a loss of livelihood for farmers, the US-based rights group said.
And due to the considerable amount of land damage incurred from the discharge of acidic wastes and contamination of surface and groundwater, an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment noted that “local residents and previous land owners will no longer be able to use the land within the site boundary for farming.”
The report went on to say that the government’s failure to aid the community resulted in protests, but those were met with brutal suppression by police, as seen in the police shooting which killed villager Daw Khin Win on 22 December and the firebombing tragedy back in November 2012.
“The attack on the protestors is no excuse for the government not to have reviewed its operating procedures for police to make sure that policing in these kind of contexts with respect to international standards of use of force,” Corporate Crimes Researcher Meghna Abraham of Amnesty International told DVB in an interview on Tuesday.“They haven’t done that, and that’s their failure.”
She noted: “I think there is hope, but I hope our investigation is going to help contribute to more attention to this situation and also more responsibility from the companies and other governments.
“It’s not just the Myanmar government that we are looking at, but the Canadian, Chinese and other governments who have responsibility in part for making sure that these abuses the companies have been involved with are held accountable in their own home states as well,” she said.
“Construction of the Latpadaung mine must be halted immediately until rights issues have been addressed,” she emphasised.
Both Ivanhoe Mining (now renamed Turquoise Hill Resources) and Myanmar Wanbao have been contacted by DVB about the allegations but have not yet issued any comment.