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China's largest mining project in "TAR" starts operation

July 23, 2010

By Phurbu Thinley
Phayul
July 20, 2010

Dharamsala, July 20 -- Chinese authorities in the
so-called "Tibet Autonomous Region" (TAR) on
Monday formally put into operation a metal ore
mining project in the Gyama (Ch: Jiama) village of Lhasa, capital of Tibet.

China National Gold Group Corp (CNGG), China’s
second largest gold producer, said Monday the
first phase of its "Gyama polymetallic mine" in
Lhasa began production Monday, Chinese state media said.

Located in the Meldro Gungkar County of Lhasa
municipality, the Gyama mining project is one of
the eight priority construction projects of China
to exploit Tibet’s rich natural resources.

CNNG subsidiary Tibet Huatailong Mining
Development Co. started construction on the Gyama mine project in 2008.

The local Tibetan residents from Gyama township
last year reportedly petitioned the local
government to put an immediate halt to the mining
project in the area. The local government,
however, is said to have paid no heed to the
petition, and the whole region remained under
heavy military surveillance, with imposition of
severe restrictions on communication to outside
world and people visiting the region.

Gyama in Meldro Gongkar is the birthplace of
Tibet’s great king Songtsen Gampo (617-650 AD).
There are fifteen villages in the valley, two of which are nomadic.

In June 2009, Tibetans in Gyama township
protested against a water diversion project at a
mining site in the area leading to skirmishes
between residents and miners. Scuffles between
angry Tibetans and miners were followed by police
crackdown, leaving at least three Tibetans
seriously wounded. The Chinese miners had to
leave the site following a meeting between Tibetan residents and authorities.

The Gyama mining project is currently China’s
largest mining project operated by a central state-owned enterprise in "TAR."

It is reported that the first phase of this
project currently has an expected daily output of 6,000 tonnes.

The project, which involves gross investments of
8 billion yuan, (1.18 billion U.S. dollars), is
designed to have a total daily output capacity of
15,000 tons. But the company did not say when
that will be, Xinhua news agency said.

Hao Peng, deputy secretary of the Chinese
Communist Party regional committee in TAR, said
Peng said the formal operation of the project
"marks a shift from large-scale investment to an extensive output stage."

Peng also said that the project will "help meet
China's soaring demand for non-ferrous metals."

Mining in Tibet is a contentious issue. Tibetans
have long been professing the faith of holding
nature as being too sacred to be disturbed. But
with more and more mining companies operating in
Tibet, activists say there is a great danger to the fragile ecosystem of Tibet.

Critics says Chinese and foreign mining companies
are taking full "undue advantage" of the troubled
Tibetan situation in exploiting Tibet’s untapped
mineral wealth. They argue that no significant
effort is made to consult the Tibetan people or
to seek their informed consent on the issue.

The restless protests by Tibetan exiles and
voiceless anguish of Tibetans in Tibet are often
too meek to challenge the Communist China’s
discretionary authority to exploit the region’s
rich mineral reserves, which were kept untapped until the Chinese occupation.

Lately Tibetans in different parts of Tibet have
been able to initiate some kind of sustained
protests against mining activities, and in some
cases have even managed to score temporary victories.

Earlier in June 2009, a tense standoff over a
planned Chinese gold mine in Markham County, in
Chamdo Prefecture in "TAR", was forced to be
resolved in favour of local Tibetans after
vigorous anti-mining protests for weeks. The
dispute occurred over operations of the mine set
up by a Chinese firm at Ser Ngol Lo (Year of gold
and silver), a mountain considered sacred by
Tibetans. Tibetan protesters were facing armed
Chinese security forces at the site, where
Chinese mining and Lumbering firm, Zhongkai Co,
had been authorized to excavate.

Again in May this year, at least five protesters,
including two women, were injured as thousands of
Tibetan villagers in Markham County renewed
protests against mining operations on mountains
they consider sacred. Protesters this time
targeted three mines located at Tsongshen, Choeten, and Deshoe in the county.
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