Mountain riots

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Hundreds of Tibetans Riot to Stop Mining Company from Plundering Sacred Mountain

Tibet Advocacy Groups Call for Immediate Withdrawal of Foreign Mining Companies from Tibet.
[London and New York] Hundreds of Tibetans rioted last month against a Chinese mining project which is extracting lead and zinc from Yala Mountain, one of nine mountains considered sacred by Tibetans, and which is situated in Tawu County, Kardze (Ganzi) Prefecture, Kham [Ch: Sichuan] in eastern Tibet. Reuters reported that in late May over 400 Tibetans gathered in protest outside the local branch of the Chinese mining company. Local government officials were reportedly attacked when they attempted to intervene and around 20 vehicles were smashed. The report quoted a Tibetan lama as saying: “For us, the Yala mountain is sacred. When the mine owner began exploiting it, people were enraged and tried to stop it.”(1) Reuters quoted a local official saying that the unrest had “subsided”.

“The riots in Tawu [Ch:Bamei] are evidence of the very real resentment felt by Tibetans towards mining activity on the Tibetan Plateau for which their free, prior and informed consent has not been sought., and which instead plunders their natural resources whilst polluting their sacred and natural environment” said Matt Whitticase, Campaign Spokesperson for Free Tibet Campaign. “As more regions of Tibet are mined, we are sure to see growing unrest, violence and greater militarization of Tibetan communities living in mineral rich areas.”

The riots are part of a growing trend of local opposition to the increasing presence of Chinese and overseas mining companies in Tibet. Canadian and British firms in particular are leading the rush to exploit Tibet’s mineral reserves without the consent of, and increasingly in conflict with, rural Tibetans living near the project sites.

“As long as Tibet remains an occupied territory where the rule of law is weak and where mining is so clearly opposed by local Tibetans, no mining companies – Chinese or foreign - should operate there.” said Lhadon Tethong, Executive Director of Students for a Free Tibet. “Any involvement by foreign companies amounts to collusion with the Chinese Government’s policy of ransacking Tibet’s vast mineral wealth for its own purposes (2).”

The global extractive industry has a dismal track record when it comes to mining in politically volatile areas like Tibet, where local people often have no say over the exploitation of their own natural resources and suffer the devastating social, economic and ecological consequences of these projects. There are currently nine foreign mining companies known to be operating in Tibet, seven Canadian and two British.

Canadian company, Continental Minerals, holds its Annual General Meeting in Vancouver on June 21 where its controversial Shetongmon mine in Tibet is certain to be scrutinized by Tibet activists.(3) In June 2006, reports from Tibet indicated that local villagers living near the Shetongmon site protests outside the company’s site offices. The Tibetan Government in Exile based in Dharamsala, India has also expressed concern about this project, which fails to meet the government’s guidelines for sustainable development projects in Tibet.

An international coalition of Tibet Support Groups has urged Continental Minerals and the other firms to withdraw immediately from Tibet until Tibetans in mine impacted areas are in a position to give free, prior, and informed consent to these projects.

Notes to Editor:

Reuters also reported that eight Tibetan village elders from Bamei had been missing since they attempted to petition the Sichuan provincial government in the capital, Chengdu, according to residents.
Extraction of valuable Tibetan minerals such as copper, zinc and lead reduces China’s dependence on costly imports, commodity prices for which have soared on the back of Chinese industrial demand.
The following is a list of those companies operating in Tibet, their activities and location:
HDI/Continental Minerals (CAD): Copper and Gold mining at Shenthongmon Gold Mine (Ch: Xientongmen) Shigatse (Ch: Rigaze), U-Tsang / Tibet Autonomous Region (Ch: Xizang) Company website:
Inter Citic Minerals Inc (CAD): Dachang Gold Project, Mato Township (Ch: Maduo),Churmarleb County (Ch: Qumalai)Yulshul Prefecture (Ch: Yushou) , Kham, (Ch: Qinghai) Company website:
Eldorado Gold (CAD): Tanjianshan Gold Project, near Tsadamche (Ch: Dachaidan), Tsonub Prefecture (Ch: Haixi), Dachaidan, Amdo (Ch: Qinghai) Company website:
Dynasty Gold (CAD): Red Valley Gold Project, (Ch: Hongguo Village, Datan Township), Semnyi County, (Ch: Menyuan), Tsobyang Prefecture (Ch: Haibei), Amdo (Ch: Qinghai Province) Company website:
TVI Pacific (CAD): Gold and mineral exploration at 60 sites across Tibetan Autonomous region Company website:
GobiMin (CAD): Huangshan deposit drilling, Xianshang mine, Tagtse County (Ch: Dazi), Lhasa, Tibetan Autonomous Region (Ch: Xizang) Company website:
Sterling Group Ventures Inc (CAD): Produce lithium carbonate (Ch: Dangxiongcuo Lake) in Nagqu Prefecture (Ch: Naqu), Tibetan Autonomous Region (Ch: Xizang) Company website:
China Central Goldfields (UK): De Ming Ding Copper Project, 60 km east of Lhasa (Ch: De Ming Ding area), Tibetan Autonomous Region (Ch: Xizang) Company website:
South China Resources (UK): Zhunuo copper project, (Ch: Zhunuo), Shigatse (Ch: Rigaze), U-Tsang / Tibet Autonomous Region (Ch: Xizang) Company website: