Workers protest to lift ban on blocked gold mine

Workers have started a weeklong protest to regain mining rights for Moehti Moemi gold mine in Yamethin district of Mandalay, which had its permit blocked by the government, said an official of the National Prosperity Company on Wednesday.

Around 500 protesters began the protest on Sunday and will continue until Saturday to push for their demands according to the law of the administrative department, U Tun Aung Soe, the executive director of the company, told The Myanmar Times. The gold mine has been shut for almost four months.

“As nothing has been done in the meantime, traders, shopkeepers and transportation crews who depend on it have lost their livelihoods. Vendors have also suffered losses of income,” said U Tun Aung Soe.

The protest is carried out three hours a day by company staff, mine workers, mine workers from allied gold mining companies, motorbike and car couriers, and vendors, who all rely on the miners.

If nothing happens during the protest, they will march to Nay Pyi Taw to see Myanmar’s Economic Committee Chairman Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and officials of the Myanmar Investment Commission to let them know about their predicament, he said.

No. 2 Mining under the ministry ordered the company to stop operations on November 8 last year.

The company was granted a permit to mine for gold in Block A, which spans 24 square kilometres of the resource-rich Moehti Moemi area.

All contracts were cancelled starting from February 17, 2018, due to a default on the payment of gold debts amounting to K100 billion (US$73.34 million). The closure caused hardships for its 5000 workers, U Tun Aung Soe said.

The company owes 1200 viss of gold to the government, Managing Director of No. 2 Mining U Than Daing told a media conference in Nay Pyi Taw in May.

A company official responded that the default was due to a discrepancy between raw production described in the auction and actual production.

Due to low production, the company, which started operation in September 2011, has yet to pay 5.577 tonnes of gold (over 3400 viss) it owes to the government within eight years. It was able to pay only 330 viss of gold during the same period. Its contract term is 25 years, U Than Daing said.

U Tun Aung Soe said he was not informed of the charge made by No.2 Mining and if sued, he would face it.

“I consulted with the lawyer on how to defend our company. Their action was one-sided and not in line with the law of Myanmar Investment Commission. I can’t say anything else,” he added.

Source : Myanmar Times

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