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Tenasserim tin mine allegedly pollutes creek

Trucks at the Heinda tin mine (PHOTO: Tavoyan Voice)

A Thai-owned mine in a village in the Tenasserim region in Burma was allegedly found to have released wastewater and contaminated a creek used by locals, according to a study by Naresuan University (NU) in northern Thailand.

According to the study, several water and soil samples collected from a creek and Myaung Pyo village, in Tenasserim Divission, officially known as Tanintharyi, were found to be contaminated with an alarming level of manganese, said Tanapon Phenrat, NU’s environmental engineering professor who led the study team.

He was speaking at a briefing to the subcommittee on community rights and natural resources of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRC), before the subcommittee departed on a visit to the village in Burma on Wednesday.

The subcommittee will join a public forum and continue gathering information from Burma. The visit resulted from the Dawei Development Association (DDA), which in representing the Burmese community, submitted a petition to the NHRC in March 2015 to consider whether the case infringed on the community’s rights.

Mr Tanapon said the 222 samples of water, soil, and sediments were collected from 34 spots in a creek and Myaung Pyo village near Heinda Tin Mine on a five-day field-trip in August 2015. The study was sponsored by the university after the DDA, a Burmese civic group, had asked the team to conduct the study after it suspected the water had been contaminated.

Water samples from the creek were found to have turbidity of between 642 and 15,282 mg/litre, above the acceptable level at 10 mg/litre, he said. The study also found a sample of underground water, for consumption, was contaminated by 20.10 mg/litre of manganese, above the acceptable level of 0.03 mg/litre.

Although there are two mines, Wagon and Heinda, along the creek, Mr Tanapon said the wastewater released from the Wagon mine was diluted along the way. The water in the creek became heavily contaminated again after the Heinda mine.

Water from the Heinda mine close to the villagers was also contaminated with lead and arsenic, said Mr Tanapon.

As the community is located close to the Heinda Mine, their drinking water taken from underground, soil, and plant sources were affected by contamination due to the discharge of mine water and mine tailings, said Mr Tanapon. According to the DDA, the Heinda Tin Mine is operated by Myanmar Pongpipat Co Ltd which is owned by a Thai company but registered in Burma.

The mine has existed for over 100 years as a small operation, but was expanded in 1999 when the MPC was granted exclusive rights to operate at the mine.