China's railway to plunder Tibet

Wednesday, 31 January 2007

China's official news agency, Xinhua, has recently announced (1) that vast deposits of copper, iron, lead and zinc have been found by Chinese Government geologists (2) along the route of the newly-opened Qinghai-Tibet Railway. One copper deposit in Qulong in Tibet has a proven reserve of 7.89 million tons, making it the second largest copper find in China and Tibet. The news confirms what many Tibetans have long suspected: that China intends to use the railway to plunder Tibet's enormous natural mineral wealth.

Previous official Chinese statements have claimed the railway is intended to attract prosperity and development in to Tibet. The proximity of the railway to mineral reserves, however, confirms that the railway will have the opposite effect. China's mining companies will be able to transport Tibet's vast mineral wealth out of Tibet, denying Tibetans any opportunity to profit from the soaring commodity prices commanded by their resources which will instead be utilized by the booming industries of eastern China. Businesses there are displaying a voracious appetite for Tibetan iron ore and copper (3).

Matt Whitticase of Free Tibet Campaign said:

"China's mining activities in occupied Tibet amount to daylight robbery. The routing of the railway through areas where mineral deposits are located provides clear proof that the railway was never intended by China to benefit Tibetans, but rather to plunder Tibet's natural resources and to lessen China's dependence on mineral imports from overseas. Tibetans have not given their free, prior and informed consent to China's mining activities on the Tibetan Plateau. Until Tibetans are free to determine how their economic resources are utilized, western mining corporations should stay well away from forming partnerships with Chinese companies involved in the ransacking of Tibet."

Tibetans inside and outside Tibet have long opposed the railway for a variety of reasons in addition to the plundering of their economic resources. The railway will allow ever increasing numbers of Han Chinese to migrate to Tibet, further marginalizing Tibetans in their homeland. It will also hasten China's militarization of the Tibetan plateau. The railway will provide a constant supply of troops, supplies and hardware to key military installations along the railroad, enabling China to upgrade significantly the size and effectiveness of its garrison on the Tibetan Plateau (4).

Notes to Editors:

(1) Xinhua announced the finding of mineral deposits on Thursday 25 January 2007.

(2) Xinhua quoted China's top geological official Meng Xianlai, director of the China Geological Survey, which comes under the Ministry of Land and Resources. It was reported that total reserves could amount to more than 20 million tons of copper and 10 million tons lead and zinc. Copper deposits include the Yulong copper find in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) which has a proven reserve of 7.89 million tons, making it second in size to the largest copper mine in China and Tibet operated by Jianqxi Copper.

(3) Copper is an essential component in the generation and transmission of electricity. Demand in China is high and soars in the hot summer months due to increased demand for air-conditioning. Iron ore is an essential resource for China's booming steel mills.

(4) Shortly after the railway was opened, Xinhua announced in July 2006 a quadrupling of medicine supplies to combat altitude sickness to the military stationed in Tibet.

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