Press Release: "Robbing the Future" Report

Secretive Russian Mining Project in Burma set to Destroy Homes of 7,000

Villagers suspect links to Russia-Burma uranium plans

A Russian-backed mining project that plans to excavate an entire mountain southeast of Taunggyi in Burma’s war-torn Shan State will destroy the homes of 7,000 villagers and impact a further 35,000, according to a report released today.

Robbing the Future, based on exclusive research and photos from the Pa-O Youth Organization (PYO), details the unfolding development of the country’s second largest iron deposit by Burma’s regime and Russian state-owned Tyazhpromexport.

Ongoing construction of an iron processing plant 10 km from the Burma Army’s Eastern Command, nearby an area where recent fighting has flared up, is expected to be completed by the end of the year. The factory is equipped with underground bunkers and surrounded by two ten feet high cement walls and barbed wire.

Fifty five people have already been forcibly relocated out of three villages to make way for the factory and 11,000 acres of farmlands have been confiscated by local authorities. Complaints by the villagers to local government offices were dismissed.

Preparations for the first of a series of open pit mines have also begun. These will decimate the mountain, and the homes of 7,000 people living directly around it.

The erosion of mine heaps and the release of tailings into the valley’s main water source, the Thabet Stream, stand to affect 35,000 people downstream. Diversion of the stream to the factory has already led to unusually low water levels this year.

Extreme travel restrictions and a lack of public information about the project are fueling rampant local speculation that uranium will also be mined on the mountain.

“They are hiding what they’re doing behind walls and fences, but we will be the ones to suffer the effects of these projects. The foreign companies are taking advantage of the lack of rule of law in Burma to exploit our resources and are robbing our future” said Khun Chan Khe, a spokesperson from the Pa-O Youth Organization.

Local suspicions are heightened by a Russian Atomic Energy Agency announcement in 2007 of plans to build a nuclear reactor in Burma. The Italian company Danieli is also believed to be involved in the project.

Media Contacts: Khun Chan Khe (Burmese) +66 85 288 4211; Khun Ko Wein (English) +66 83 152 8050

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