Company officials have sought support from village headman in Chin State’s Tedim Township in resuming the Mwe Tawng mining project, Khonumthung News has learned.
The Yangon-based Myanmar Thiha Company is preparing to apply for an extraction license from the government for the Mwe Tawng project. It is located on the border between Chin State and Sagaing Region. There are nearly 20 villages around Mwe Tawng, which translates to “Snake Mountain.”
Company officials came to meet village headmen from communities around the mining project area on January 28 in an attempt to get them on board with the initiative, locals said.
“Company officials explained that they would apply for an extraction license. They talked to local people about giving a recommendation for it,” Mang Za Hkup, coordinator of the Mwe Tawng Regional Development Organization, told Khonumthung News. “They tried to seek an agreement with local people before they applied for the extraction license. They urged local people to support the project and pray for them. It’s a sort of organizing campaign.”
Company’s officials met village headmen from seven villages in Nan Kyin Soung village-tract in Kalay Township, Sagaing Region. The meeting was held at the house of the Mya Sein village headman.
During the meeting, officials of Myanmar Thiha company explained that if they got the extraction license from the government, they would build roads and bridges to develop the area for local benefit. According to Mang Za Hkup, the officials handed out flyers of their company, fire extinguishers and some money, which they reportedly said was a gift.
“It’s not the right approach. They gave some money. As a consequence, some of the people who received money will support the company. It can cause problems among the local people. They came to ‘set fire’ here rather than carry out regional development,” Mang Za Hkup told Khonumthung News, using a local expression that means to create problems.
Sheng Pau, the headman of Mya Sein village in the affected area, explained that the Myanmar Thiha officials said that the area would be mined, but it was up to the villagers who would be the ones to mine it. He opted to support it.
“They explained us that both China and India would apply for the extraction license for this mining project,” the headman said. “We told them that there was nothing to reject. We would support a Myanmar company rather than a foreign company.”
Former president Thein Sein and the China-based North Mining Investment Company (NMIC) previously agreed to start the Mwe Tawng mining project in 2012. Chin political parties, civil society organizations and and local people strongly opposed the project at that time. As a consequence, the project stopped in 2013.
According to previous observations carried out by NMIC, there are an estimated 42 million tons of minerals in the Mwe Tawng area, including nickel, iron, chromium, calcium oxide, magnesium oxide, magnesium oxide, aluminum oxide, silica, carbon and sulphur.