By Khin Su Wai
Sagging, Myanmar, June 13, 2017
Although a verbal promise had been made for compensation to be paid for lands which were seized from a subsidiary of a Chinese firm Wanbao Mining, Myanmar Yang Tse is still operating the Sabetaung and Kyisintaung mines beside Letpadaung.
The lands have been seized twice, between May 1996 and September 1997. According to records the compensation for the seizures were nearly finished, regional MP for Salingyi town Dr Thein Naing told The Myanmar Times.
“The NLD government gets the legacy from the past government. When we tried to take the compensation case, we just check with the land record from the town as well as the land seizure map at the time. Some lands are not included in the map, but they have a land record number like Lala 39. We just negotiate with the company. The company has agreed to give compensation for these. What we need to negotiate is the land cases inside the fences. Though lands are seized, there is still farming. For these cases, we have to discuss with the 27 farmers who work the lands,” Dr Thein Naing told The Myanmar Times on June 12.
More than 6000 acres from the area should receive compensation according to the 2012-13 government report. “As soon as we finish discussions with those farmers, we can give the compensation as they want.”
Ko Tint Aung Soe from the Kan Kone village from Salingyi town told The Myanmar Times on June 11 that he felt impatience for the delay.
“Sometimes I feel that their work is only for show, always saying that they need approval from the Union.”
Like Wanbo, Myanmar Yang Tse, which was established in 2011 with an investment of 1.3 billion Yuan, has been having issues with locals for the land seizures and environmental issues for example court cases.
The Sabetaung and Kyisintaung mine was developed by Canadian firm Ivanhoe Mines in cooperation with the government, but sold to Wanbao after Ivanhoe pulled out of the country to pursue interests in Mongolia.
In May 2015, locals accused the company of failing to follow the ‘Sustainability & Strategy Reports for Safety, Health and Environment’ in resolving land conflicts, environmental degradation, and local development issues.
The locals also wanted the company to provide reimbursements, employ temporary staff as full-time employees, audit and investigate how the annual US$500,000 regional development fund had been used, and to hold a trilateral meeting involving the government, the locals and the company.
They also demanded the company administer acid drop by drop instead of spraying during copper production to protect the environment, to build walls to prevent polluted air from reaching the villages, and to establish a self-managed village fund.
In August 2016, they received a reply that the regional government was taking responsibility over the land compensation. The locals told the authorities that compensation for the land must be according to current market price.
They have since taken some time to gather and verify land records, as the land originally owned by the farmers were not documented when the properties were seized.
It is learnt that the records on the confiscated land were sent to the President and State Counsellor’s offices on April 3. And then a protest took place on April 26 when locals from Sabaetaung and Kyay Sin Taung – where the company was mining copper — demanded that the land seizure issue be solved.
The unsolved mining problem was then carried to the NLD government which could not satisfy the locals, as the NLD had taken over administration for more than one year. A number of protests against Wanbo and Yansi had also occurred in the NLD government.
Even the regional government tried to keep in touch with the community, as the locals demanded their wants be fulfilled. U Thein Naing pointed out the current laws that need to be repaired if the locals demand it.
“There is the land case in Wanbo, where the local want the crop from about 1900 acres, but we couldn’t give this according to the farming law in August 2012.