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Mon villagers rally against mountain quarry

File photo of mining operations inside Burma. (PHOTO: Reuters)

Villagers in Mon State’s Paung Township rallied against a proposed plan by a Burmese private company, Amberto Mining, to quarry Kalarma Mountain.

Residents from six villages in Ohntabin village-tract have petitioned the local authority, asserting that they rely on mountain streams for drinking water and to generate hydropower. They fear that quarrying the mountain will destroy their livelihoods.

Local villager Ange Lay said the company had already proposed plans to the local Forestry Department.

“We learnt the company have already submitted their application to the Forestry Department but it is likely the officials will wait for local residents to negotiate with the company before issuing them a permit,” said Ange Lay, adding the company has been trying to push the deal ahead.

He said over 100 villagers including Buddhist monks have signed a letter addressed to the Paung township authorities, voicing their objection to the proposal.

Township administrator Han Thaung said he has no authority to decide on the mountain’s fate.

“People think I am the one who invited the company so they’re addressing the complaint to me, but in fact I have nothing to do with it; I was not even informed of any details about the project. So how am I supposed to make a decision on this?” Han Thaung said.

“The company is in conversation with with state-level authorities so hopefully they [state-authorities] will see to the situation,” he added.

Tin Hla of activist group Human Rights Promoters and Defenders Network said that quarrying the mountain would lead to negative social and environmental impacts, as there are several villages, monasteries, rubber plantations and forests at the foot of the mountain. He reminded the company of existing environmental protection laws.

“The Amberto Company claimed the mountain is formed with quarry rock but research shows it is actually decorative-rock protected under article-45 of the regulations by the Ministry of Mines,” said Tin Hla.