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Exiled Tibetan government warns against increased mining

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Jul 23, 2006
The Central Tibetan Administration, exiled in Dharamsala, India, has expressed great concern over the increased mining expected for the Tibetan region with the opening of a new railway this month.

In a statement issued by the government's information office spokesman, he cited cases where mining has already harmed the environment and negatively impacted Tibetan people's livelihood.

In the past, Tibet's remoteness, high altitude and harsh climate, unreliable geological data, poor infrastructure and inefficiency, were major obstacles that confronted the mining industry in the Tibetan region, Tensin Tsultrim said in the statement.

Until recently, most of the mining operations in Tibet were concentrated in the more easily accessible and minerals-rich Tsaidam Basin region of north-eastern Tibet or Amdo region (today incorporated as Qinghai Province).

But the railway, which links Tibet with the rest of China by rail for the first time, will make a way for the increased exploitation of Tibets mineral resources, the statement said.

Already, poor governance and control over mining have exacerbated environmental impacts in the Tibetan region, Tsultrim said.

In the 1990s illegal mining, particularly gold, in eastern Tibet "Kham and Amdo" had huge adverse impacts and affected the livelihood of Tibetan nomads due to loss of grassland and land pollution from mine tailings and acidic drainage from shallow alluvial gold mining, Tsultrim said.

Uranium mining, particularly in the Thewo region of Amdo (presently part of Kanlho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu), also known as Project 792, has caused tremendous hardship to the local Tibetans in the region.

Reports of birth deformities in both the livestock and human population, increase in epilepsy cases, local water sources becoming unsafe for drinking, and cases of mysterious deaths of livestock and humans continue to come from the regions where uranium has been taking place, Tsultrim said.

Project 792 was officially closed in 2002 by an order from Beijing, citing mine exhaustion.

However, recent reports indicate clandestine operation of mines with the connivance of local officials and some business firms are going on, Tsultrim said.

"Local Tibetans from the region complain about their helplessness to stop the uranium mining," he said.

"Tibetans have no say on these projects, since natural resources are the property of the State and protests relating to environmental issues by Tibetans have led to persecution."

For Tibetans, increased mining mean possible forced displacement, loss of pasture and farmland to the mines, and the environmental degradation on the area.

Tibetans who have been resettled by previous projects do not receive promised compensation and are worse off than before after resettlement because of the loss of their traditional land and livelihood, Tsultrim said.

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