Farmers from eastern Shan State’s Tachileik Township have called for an immediate end to gold mining operations in the area, which they say are seriously polluting water sources and causing other environmental damage.
The ethnic Shan villagers from Na Hai Long, Weng Manaw and Ganna villages in Talay sub-township said that more than 300 acres of farmland can no longer be cultivated due to waste produced by gold-mining companies.
A group of the farmers traveled to the Shan State capital of Taunggyi to give a press conference organized by the Shan Farmers’ Network on Wednesday.
The farmers group said 10 different companies have been carrying out mining there since 2007, with locals receiving only minimal compensation. Although the local government was convinced in mid-April to issue an order to the companies to suspend their activities, mining has continued and companies have allegedly pressured villagers to stop complaining, a statement said.
Nang Lar, a farmer from Na Hai Long village told The Irrawaddy the Loi Kham hills have been devastated by gold mining.
“We now have no proper farmland to work on,” Nang Lar said, adding that the Namkham stream, the main source of water for agriculture in the area, have become shallow as mining waste has been dumped into it.
“We have not been able to farm since 2012. Twelve out of my family’s 17 acres of farmland have been polluted by the sediment. Our water source is being polluted and the fish even die from the polluted water.”
She said about 400 villagers from 90 households across the three villages may have to leave for other areas, or to jobs overseas.
“My village has been here since my great grandparents. I was born and raised here,” said Nang Lar. “I don’t want to leave; therefore we are demanding a halt to such mining operations.”
She added that the mining companies’ trucks have badly damaged the road connecting the villages with Tachileik, on the Burmese-Thai border.