YANGON — The Chinese firm behind the controversial Letpadaung copper mine said last week it plans to restart operations in May, a month after a National League for Democracy government takes office.
“We can start production in May,” Myanmar Wanbao spokesperson Dong Yun Fei told AFP on February 19.
Myanmar Wanbao, a subsidiary of state-owned China North Industries Corporation, runs the mine in partnership with military-owned conglomerate Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd.
The partnership took over the mine in 2010 from Canada’s Ivanhoe Mines, which had operated the facility under a joint venture established in 1996 with state-owned Mining Enterprise No. 1.
“We will start to run our production under the new government and I hope for a better future with them,” Mr Dong said.
He said there were “still some problems with local people” protesting against the mine.
“The question of how to handle this problem is the business of the government. Only they can solve it,” Mr Dong told AFP.
Letpadaung has been dogged with controversy since 2012 when riot police caused outrage by using white phosphorous grenades to clear a protest camp, leaving dozens of people with severe burns, including several monks.
NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi led an official probe into that incident, which was condemned by villagers and activists for not recommending that the mine be closed.
There were protests outside the Chinese embassy in Yangon in January last year after a women protester was shot dead during a clash with police near the mine, in Sagaing Region.
In December 2013, an NLD delegation that visited China was briefed on the mine’s operations by Wanbao executives in Beijing.
Wanbao said last year that Myanmar stands to receive $140 million a year in tax from the project.