Join our Mailing List

"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Woeser on Mining in Tibet

June 21, 2010

Tibet Custom
June 18, 2010

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost
by Woeser that was originally written for Radio
Free Asia on April 14, 2010 in Beijing and posted on her blog on June 13, 2010.

Woeser had spent some time in Lhasa in February
and March 2010 and this blogpost refers to that
time. Since the earthquake that took place on
April 14, 2010 in Kham, Woeser's blog writings
focused on monitoring the situation and bringing
out news, which perhaps explains the almost two
month delay in posting this article.

This is not the first time that Woeser has
written about mining and environmental issues,
see also the blogpost from November 2009 titled
Tibet's Water Pollution and China's "Global Warming".

I went to Gyama in the summer of 2005. I visited
the temple to make offerings to the statue of
Songtsen Gampo and met with the elderly man who
guards the temple. I also went into the nearby
village and to the nunnery built on top of the
mountain. Those photos were taken during the
trip. Recently I heard that the elderly man who
guards the temple already passed away. Because of
the pollution caused by mining activities, many
villagers have fallen ill and because of the
“patriotic education”, which is carried out
inside temples, in the nunnery, which I had
visited, there are only a few nuns left, all others have been driven out…

"Songtsen Gampo’s Hometown Is About To Be Completely Excavated"
By Woeser
Beijing, April 14, 2010

Let’s reflect upon the things which I came to
understand in Lhasa. They concern mining. They
also concern the town of Gyama, which I have
actually written much about. The town of Gyama is
situated in Medro Gongkar county near Lhasa. It
is the hometown of the great Tibetan monarch,
Songtsen Gampo. It is true that I mention
Songtsen Gampo often, always in the hope that
those greedy cadres and companies would show some
mercy. In Han Chinese culture, the birthplace of
all former dynasties’ emperors is considered to
be the treasured place of “fengshui”, referred to
as “dragon’s pulse”. Only occasionally dynastic
changes destroyed the “dragon’s pulse” of a
former emperor, but normally it would be
meticulously protected and regularly sacrificed
to seek protection and luck. According to this,
Gyama, with its many sacred and beautiful places,
is where the “dragon’s pulse” exists in Tibet and
it should never have to endure such disembowelling hardship as it does today.

Only because Gyama, just like all other places in
Tibet, is rich in natural resources, mining
companies established at least 6 mining areas in
the Gyama district alone many years ago,
ruthlessly exploiting copper, molybdenum, lead,
zinc, gold, silver etc. This has led to the
destruction of the local ecology and brought
disaster to local citizens. Since 2007, a gold
miner belonging to the National Enterprise and
the China Gold Group with an international
background has become the new owner of Gyama.
They swallowed many mining areas in one go and
had Huatailong Mining Development Limited company
subordinating to specialise in mining, everyday
exploiting an amount of up to 12,000 tons. Today,
Gyama has become the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau’s
mining pit with the highest daily output. Last
month, the “Tibet Daily” jubilantly praised: “the
weekly sales revenue of Jiama’s
copper-polymetallic ore has reached 1.1 billion Yuan.”

The article also announced that "1400 new
employment opportunities for local people have
been created," claiming that mining brought about
endless benefits to the local population.
However, what does the reality look like? I heard
about the following: Huatailong mining industry
deprived over a hundred nomad families of their
pasture.  The local authorities requested the
nomads to move away from their pasture and
promised to build them new socialist country
houses as well as to provide them with a monthly
allowance. Yet, the nomads say that away from
their life on the grasslands they cannot do
anything, it is just a road leading to a dead
end. Numerous times, the nomads went to the
township and county to appeal to the higher
authorities but they were ignored. The Huatailong
mining remains relatively quiet during the
daytime but at night everything is brightly lit
and thundering noise like roaring guns
accompanies the mining activities that go on all
night long. Blasts in the middle of the night
were so powerful that it even made some villagers
fall underneath their beds believing that it was
an earthquake. Huatailong Mining built Gyama’s
asphalt roads, which is of course mainly for the
sake of making transportation of ore more
convenient. In previous years, some villagers
bought cars in order to transport ore for small
mining companies; this created quite decent
income opportunities. Today, Huatailong forced
them to sell their cars to the company and now
the villagers have become drivers of a
transportation company receiving a monthly
salary, which is far less than before. Resentment
can be sensed everywhere. The Huatailong mining
industry has caused most severe pollution, many
livestock have died, many villagers have fallen
ill but the compensation is not much. Last year,
due to a drought, Huatailong used the villager’s
water, causing serious conflicts. Reportedly,
Huatailong had approximately up to 10,000 workers
at their disposal, most of them Han Chinese,
while there were only a few thousand villagers.
Yet, immediately, a great number of military
police, including special police forces, were
sent from Lhasa patrolling through Gyama with
armoured vehicles for many days arresting
villagers. Up to the present day there are three
villagers (one of them the village head) who are
still imprisoned awaiting their sentence.

Songtsen Gampo's hometown has almost been
completely excavated by the China Gold Group. In
fact, most part of the entire Medro Gongkar
County has almost been bought up; even the county
government has sold their land to the above
company and moved to a different area.  Many
local Tibetans say that one might as well just
change the name of Medro Gongkar County into
Huatailong County and Gyama village into
Huatailong village. In actual fact, it isn’t
merely one county or one village, in Lhundrup
County near Lhasa, every village has been
affected by mining, even far in the west, in
Ngari,  everywhere is full of mines. The
mountains in Dram on the border have been
excavated by gold miners; they might soon even
start digging up to the side of Nepal.

In March this year, the high official Jampa
Phuntsok said to the media in Beijing: "Tibet is
not only the country’s protective screen in terms
of ecology and security; it is also the base
where the electricity in the western region is to
be transported to the eastern area, a base for
mining, the centre of diverse natural life and it
will even become one of the world’s main tourist
destinations.” Being “a base for mining” as he
says, clearly reveals that Tibet’s rivers and
mountains will be a scenery of destruction in the
future. Some days later, the slogans hanging in
the streets of Lhasa were changed into: “Showing
a New Image, Casting New Brilliance, Promoting
the Harmonious Development of Mining Areas”, does
this not imply that in the near future, there
will be mining on a much larger scale?

Source: High Peaks Pure Earth
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank