Myanmar Wanbao has dismissed Amnesty International’s accusations that it colluded in a series of human rights abuses directed against protestors at the Latpadaung copper mine site in Sagaing Division.
Statements by both international companies involved in the project – Chinese state-backed Myanmar Wanbao and the former contractor, Canadian firm Ivanhoe – were issued after human rights group Amnesty International published a detailed report on 10 February, accusing the firms of“corporate crimes”at the Latpadaung mine.
Myanmar Wanbao rebutted the Amnesty report in a press statement. “We find the report to be groundless and vehemently deny sensationalist claims of collusion with authorities to use force against protestors and villagers,” it said.
“Over 71 percent of [villagers who lost land] have supported our payment contribution plans and the project. And within these 35 villages, 27 villages consulted through door-to-door visits have given us an average 91 percent acceptance rate of the contribution and the project.”
Myanmar Wanbao criticised the US-based rights watchdog on its methodology of obtaining results, saying the organisation claims to have spent 15 days interviewing individuals affected by the project, activists and lawyers, but made no effort to communicate with the contractor.
“We believe [that] had Amnesty involved us in its investigations it would not have been making such wide and unsubstantiated claims which are factless,” it said.
“We must say that we find this conduct to be unprofessional, highly unfair and heavily biased.”
Myanmar Wanbao’s predecessor at the copper mine, Ivanhoe Mining, rejected accusations by Amnesty of breaking international sanctions by engaging in illegal copper agreements with Burmese military affiliations during a period of international economic sanctions on Burma.
The Canadian multinational held a 50 percent interest in the Latpadaung Copper Project from 1994 to 2006, until it divested shares to an independent trust in February 2007. The company has now been rebranded as Turquoise Hill Resources, and is 51 percent owned by Rio Tinto.
“It remains our understanding that the measures proposed by Rio Tinto and put in place by Ivanhoe Mines on the disposal of the Myanmar asset were fully compliant with all applicable laws giving effect to sanctions,” a Turquoise Hill spokesperson told DVB on Tuesday evening.
“We are not aware of any facts or circumstances that would suggest any non-compliance with those laws at the time of, or prior to, the apparent divestment of the interest in mid-2011. Since Rio Tinto moved to majority ownership of Turquoise Hill in January 2012, and assumed management of the company in April 2012, the new Turquoise Hill management team has not become aware of any such facts or circumstances that would suggest any non-compliance.”
Coinciding with this war of words on Tuesday, a confrontation took place at Latpadaung between local protestors and police after bulldozers arrived at the site. At least nine people were injured when both sides cast rocks at each other with slingshots.