LETPADAUNG, Sagaing Division — The Letpadaung copper mine project near Monywa in Sagaing Division has sparked public outcry in recent years, especially after a government crackdown on protesters in 2012 injured than 70 people, including several monks.
Local residents and human rights groups have demanded its closure, citing environmental destruction, forced relocation and illegal land confiscation as reasons to scupper the project. Almost two years after the crackdown, an agreement between the mine’s operators and those opposing the project has yet to be reached.
The mine is a joint venture between China’s Wanbao mining company and the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd (UMEHL), a Burmese military-owned conglomerate.
The Letpadaung venture is part of the companies’ wider Monywa copper extraction efforts, which target four copper deposits at the mountains of Sabe, Kyeesin and Letpadaung.
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The Letpadaung venture is a 30-year project that is likely to produce 100,000 tons of copper annually and as such is the most promising of the deposits in the area, but at present its development is only 40 percent completed.
Still, its operators say there is no turning back now.
“We have invested up to US$1 billion in this project,” the project manager told The Irrawaddy during a guided tour around the Letpadaung site last month.
“So the project can’t be stopped and it has to continue.”