A 12-year-old child was killed and several elderly residents were injured on Wednesday when the embankment of a tailing pond at a mine site collapsed, triggering a landslide and flooding in the nearby village of Kanbauk, Tenasserim Division, some 77 kilometres north of the region’s capital Dawei.
The mine site is operated by Burma-based mining firm Delco Mining.
The mother said her child was trapped under the wreckage of their home.
“My child drowned, buried underneath the rubble of our house. Another child and I were also swept away in the water– we only survived because we landed on the bridge,” the mother said.
A local reported the flooding to a site official after evacuating endangered residents, but representatives of operators Delco Mining informed him that the flooding would stop ‘when the water runs out’.
“We evacuated everyone who lives by the creek’s bank – men and women, then I came back around and informed the site security about it. He said he had contacted the operators and after that I came back to the villagers, telling them to stay clear as the current is becoming stronger.
“At the time, many people still remained in the bridge. Then I came back to the site again and told the security to get the operators fast. He said he’s already done that and that the manager told him ‘it will stop when the water in the pond runs out,’” the villager said.
Kanbuak resident Aung Lwin told DVB that the landslide destroyed 11 homes, and some 40 more had to be abandoned as they were within the danger-zone, leaving 90 locals homeless. The village monastery is currently sheltering those displaced.
“Young men in the village are furious [about the incident]. They gathered at the village’s monument and called for action against the company’s manager, and to stop operations,” said Aung Lwin.
The Tenasserim regional police chief arrived at the village to assist in mediation between the villagers and Delco Mining representatives. The company has agreed to conditions set by the locals: to detain the site manager and other relevant officials; to cease mining operations in the area until the case is settled; for the company to take responsibility for damages suffered by the villagers and to arrange a meeting with town leaders to discuss the permanent closure of the company’s operations in the area.
Kyaw Soe Win, a spokesperson from the Public Health Department, said their staff arrived to find the villagers ‘in an uproar’.
“After the incident last night, the villagers were in an uproar and that’s when the health department staff arrived there and investigated how it started. Then we provided medical assistance to villagers suffering injuries or shock – there were 22 of them. One [the young child] died later at hospital,” he said.
Locals reported that they had reached out the company as early as last year to express their concerns that a potential collapse of the tailing pond would trigger landslides. Delco Mining allegedly made no moves to assuage their concerns.
Delco Mining began mining tin and tungsten in the region in 2010, the company has not yet made an official statement regarding Wednesday’s accident.