Fri 20 Sep 2013
Filed under: Business / Trade,News
Myanmar’s Monywa copper mine is located in the country’s northwestern Sagaing province and used to be operated by Canadian Ivanhoe Mining companies. In 2010, Wanbao took over the project. The copper mine consists of the Letpadaung mine (L mine), Sabetaung mine (S mine), Sabetaung South mine (SS mine), and the Kyisintaung mine (K mine). Letpadaung is a new mine that started in March 2012, but was suspended due to protests by local villagers. On March 12 this year, the Investigation Commission headed by Aung San Suu Kyi announced its conclusion that the Letpadaung project should continue upon the adoption of improvement measures. Since then, the schedule for the project’s resumption has become a focus of all parties. This reporter visited the Monywa copper mine to study the issue.
Land compensation and relocation of locals are the key aspects for improvement suggested by the investigation report. To improve communications with the local people, the Wanbao company established a Community Social Development Mechanism (CSD) that covers welfare projects such as medical, hydropower and education services. The company hired a representative from each of the local 29 villages to form teams with volunteers from Wanbao. The teams go to the villages and families to introduce the company’s policies, collect feedback and provide answers. The reporter followed the CSD team headed by the deputy GM of Wanbao Mining (Myanmar) Luo Daqing and visited the new relocation villages the company built for the relocated villagers. At the home of Ding Shanma, a local villager, Din Shanma answered a question about the changes to his life before and after the relocation, he noted that since the relocation, electrical power and water are both guaranteed at the new village. He said the new village has schools, temples and hospitals, which improved his living condition considerably. In fact, the work of CSD teams are much more complicated and difficult than people would imagine. They have to solve issues as small as providing homes with kitchen equipment and as big as finding them jobs, and even the household disputes that have originated from the relocation. Luo Daqing laughed and said this is the foreign application of China’s principle of working with the mass population. Zhao Huijun in charge of Wanbao’s CSD said the company has set up communications offices and mail boxes in each village and an information center at the site. Whenever the villagers come to file a complaint, the company does everything it takes to solve it.
The investigation report says the project should better benefit Myanmar’s national interest. On July 24, Wanbao and its local partner UMEHL signed the revised profit sharing agreement with the Ministry of Mining. According to the new contract, the Myanmar government will receive 51% of the project’s profit while Wanbao and UMEHL will receive the remaining 49%. The contract also stipulates that Wanbao must spend 1 million USD a year on corporate social responsibility, 2 million on environmental protection and conservation. Upon the operation of the project, it will also allocate 2% for local development. The brief estimate is that Wanbao will contribute at a minimum 5 million USD to local development, a massive income for the less developed Sagaing province. The benefits of the copper mine for the local people are apparent. Myo Twemaung is a veteran worker at the Kyisintaung mine for 12 years, making about 1700 RMB monthly, which is much higher than the salary of government employees. Sabetaung mine and the Kyisintaung mine together hire 1300 workers, including only 4 Chinese. Once resumed, Letpadaung mine will hire 3500 workers, making an important contribution to local job creation, industrialization and promotion of the development of related industries.
To seek theoretical support to the project, Wanbao hired Australian KP company to produce the environmental and social impact assessment for the Letpadaung copper mine, which will be released in September. To enhance corporate transparency, Wanbao actively seeks communication with foreign and local media. This May, the GM of Wanbao Mining (Myanmar) conducted an interview with VOA in Myanmar. He presented a detailed introduction to the environment and social issues the society cares about and emphasized that the company should listen to the people’s voice. The interview was broadcast in four sessions in Myanmar. Minister in the President’s Office, the Chairman of the Copper Mine Investigation Report Executive Committee U Hla Tun was complimentary of the interview, believing that the communication between Wanbao and the media will help to dispel misunderstanding. Myanmar has high hopes for the Monywa copper mine as the largest industry enterprise. The Executive Committee has held regular meetings to discuss the progress. U Hla Tun hopes to build the Monywa copper mine as a model project, setting an example for other foreign investment projects and their corporate social responsibility programs.
Wanbao emphasized that the copper mine will be developed over 30 years, so a good relationship with the people is very important. During the interview, the reporter found that despite the series of unexpected challenges and setbacks, the young management team of Wanbao is optimistic and confident. Wanbao looks forward to the early resumption of the project beneficial to the governments and peoples of both countries.