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Community protests force temporary halt of Tibet lithium mine operation

May 16, 2016

Radio Free Asia, May 11, 2016 - In a rare move, authorities in southwestern China’s Sichuan province have ordered a temporary halt to a Chinese mining company’s operations in a Tibetan-populated area after first telling protesters they had no right to ask that the work be stopped.

The order issued on May 6 by authorities in the Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and in Kangding city cites environmental problems resulting from the mining and “solemnly commits” to block further operations until community concerns can be resolved.

A copy of the order, which was written in Chinese, was obtained by Radio Free Asia’s Tibetan Service.

Authorities had earlier appealed to Tibetan protesters to end their blockade of a highway aimed at ending work at the lithium mine, which was linked to water pollution and fish deaths in the region, sources told RFA in earlier reports.

More than 100 Tibetans from five nomadic villages in Dartsedo (Kangding) county staged the protest, fearing further environmental damage after the mining company announced last week that it would resume operations after an almost three-year halt.

“The authorities convened a meeting where they tried to convince the community that the land is owned by the government and that the mining operations are a government decision,” one source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The local community was told they had no right to block the work, he said.

Chinese security forces armed with rifles surrounded the protesters at one point but did not attack, sources said.

Tibet has become an important source of minerals needed for China’s economic growth, and Chinese mining operations in Tibetan areas have often led to widespread environmental damage, including the pollution of water sources for livestock and humans, experts say.

Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney

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