Residents living near large scale coal mining operations in northern Shan State have called on the firm, Ngwe Yi Pale Mining Co. Ltd, to stop coal mining in Hsipaw Township due to the serious environmental consequences the mining has inflicted on the area.
The firm is part of the Ngwe Yi Pale group, one of the largest sugar, cement and coal producers in Myanmar. Ngwe Yi Pale Miningstarted their operation in Hsipaw Township in 2004, with mining sites at Peng Zai, Parng Ngar and Nar Goon villages.
On April 1, 2016, over 250 villagers gathered at the Nam Ma temple to discuss problems caused by coal mining in their area.
Long Sai, an elder from Nam Ma village, told the Shan Herald that before the company operated in Peng Zai village, there was a small rice mill that provided electricity for the temple. Tea and rice grew well in the area, he explained.
“If the company continued digging the coal in the Ho Nar Fa area, over 100 acres of rice fields will be destroyed,” Long Sai explained. “The villagers will then have to move out from their homes.”
“We will not allow them to dig for coal in the Ho Nar Fa area,” he added. “We totally disagree with their operation. We want them to stop immediately and get out of the area.”
In 2010, residents in Nam Ma staged a protest against the coal mining, calling for the operation to permanently stop. However, this did not happen and the company continued to dig for coal.
“They do not care about local people who belong to the area,” said Sai Kyaw Jing, one of Nam Ma village leaders.
Over a 10 year period from 2005 to 2015 the company dug many holes throughout the Township. The holes appear to be part of an exploration study conducted by the firm. Villagers tell SHAN that they worry that people or livestock will fall into the numerous holes which the company has left in many places.
“We requested them to fill up the holes but they refused to this”, said Sai Kyaw Jing.
Earlier this year, residents of Nong Khio Township which is also in northern Shan State, reported serious problems with contamination in their area due to the company’s sugar production operations.
“Even though we met with their representatives to find a solution, they never did anything,” said a frustrated villager, Sai Zaw Moe. He reports that the firm continues to dump sugar production related waste into a nearby river.
The recently released, Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) report for Myanmar shows that 43.55% of Ngwe Yi Pale Mining, is owned U Thein Myint, also known as Chaung Hpin. Another individual listed as U Myint Shein, owns 29.20% of the firm.