A recently drafted Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) will provide the focus for renewed discussions for a committee in Naypyidaw on the controversial Latpadaung copper mine on Wednesday.
The ESIA has been compiled as a key recommendation of the Aung San Suu Kyi-led commission into both the impact of the mine and the brutal crackdown of 29 November 2012 which saw over 100 unarmed protesters injured, some severely burned by white phosphorous bombs.
The ESIA states that members of the four communities to be relocated are “potentially highly impacted” and acknowledges the process could “threaten their ability to survive”.
Key to the ESIA proposed mitigation plan is the market-value compensation for land lost to the project. This follows the previous earmarking of funds for regional development projects, which have had some success in the supply of electricity and potable water.
However local residents have refused to accept compensation en masse, as continual protests calling for the complete abandonment of the mining project have been staged.
Intense community dissatisfaction with the mining project has drawn the ire of the government and Chinese firm Wanbao alike, with arrests damaging the reputation of Thein Sein’s reformist government.
August 2013 saw the arrest and conviction of anti-mine activist Naw Ohn Hla, who received a sentence of two years prison with labour under the charge of “upsetting public tranquility”. Released on a Presidential Amnesty in November, the veteran activist was subsequently charged with “disturbing religious assembly” in regards to a vigil held in 2007 in support of Suu Kyi, who was then under house arrest.
In spite of local dissatisfaction, Minister Hla Tun has asserted that “local cooperation was a key factor to attract foreign investment”.
According to Than Tun Aung, Deputy Minister for Mining, the findings of the “expert team” sitting in Naypyidaw today will “seek and represent the voices of local people”.