Although Burma is rich in energy resources, the ruling military regime exports those resources, leaving people with chronic energy shortages. The exploitation of natural resources, including through mining, has caused severe environmental and social impacts on local communities as companies that invest in these projects have no accountability to affected communities.
There are over 16 large-scale coal deposits in Burma, with total coal resources of over 270 Million tons (Mt). Tigyit is Burma’s biggest open pit coal mine, producing nearly 2,000 tons of coal every day.
The Tigyit coal mine and coal-fired power plant are located just 13 miles from Burma’s famous Inle Lake, a heritage site of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Water polluted by the mine and waste from the power plant flow into the Lake via the Balu Creek but no study of the impact of the project on the Lake has been made public.
Coal from the mine is transported to Burma’s only operating coal-fi red power plant in Tigyit. The plant uses 640,000 tons of coal per year to produce 600 Gigawatts of power with a capacity of 120 Megawatts. 100-150 tons of toxic fl y ash waste is generated per day. The majority of power from the plant is slated for use at an iron mining factory that will be operated by Russian and Italian companies.
Implementation of the mine and power plant began in 2002 by the China National Heavy Machinery Corporation (CHMC) and the Burmese companies Eden Group and Shan Yoma Nagar.
Two nearby villages of Lai Khar and Taung Pola were forced to relocate for the project and over 500 acres of farmlands have been confi scated. Farming families facing eviction and loss of lands are going hungry and have turned to cutting down trees to sell for firewood or migrated in order to survive. Explosions from the mine have destroyed local pagodas.
Air and water pollution is threatening the agriculture and health of nearly 12,000 people that live within a fi ve mile radius of the project who may eventually have to move out. Currently 50% of the local population is suffering from skin rashes.
The Pa-Oh Youth Organization and Kyoju Action Network have been monitoring the project since February 2010 and urges the companies and government to suspend operations pending full environment, social and health impact assessments. The organization also urges local communities not to sign documents without understanding them and to oppose corruption and exploitation which harms the communities’ livelihoods and natural resources.