Locals Ignore Warnings about Mawchi Mine

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By NAW DWE EH KHU / KANTARAWADDY TIMES

Local people living near the Mawchi tungsten mine in Karenni (Kayah) State’s Hpasoung Township continue to work in areas designated as dangerous by the authorities, despite calls for them to relocate.

While some arestill digging on a hillside that is considered to be at high risk of having a landslide,othersareoperating shops in the danger zone, according to people who have witnessed recent activity in the area.

“The authorities have already told them to leave the area. You can see signboards warning them not to stay. Some shopkeepersstay there during the day and then return to their homes in the evening,” reporter Karenni Thu told Kantarawaddy Times.

Earlier this year, a crack was detected on a slope that is part of the KB1 mining block, raising fears of a potentially deadly landslide. In response, the authorities declared the area completely off-limits—to little avail.

“The authorities ordered people to leave. They warned them to relocate to saferareas. They used loudspeakers and told everyone to get out of the danger zone, which includes both the hillside and the base of the hill,” U San Win, the headman of Youkaw Kho 13-hill Ward, told Kantarawaddy Times.The owner of one mining block in the area said he had suspended operations until the end of the rainy season.

“We will clearly know the situation at the end of the rainy season, so we’ve closed our block until then. After that, we’ll restart work,” the mining block owner told Kantarawaddy Times.Last August, heavy rainfall caused the upper part of the KB1 block near Youkaw Kho 13-hill Ward, one of eight designated danger zones, to collapse.

Nobody was killed in that landslide, but some houses,cars, andbamboo huts were damaged.People in Youkaw Kho 13-hill Ward say they are worried about resumption of work after the rainy season because the KB1 block is located directly above their village.

“We warn people to be on the alert during heavy rain, because we want to protect our village,” said U Saw Nay Thar, the deputy headman of Youkaw Kho 13-hill Ward.According to theMawchi Disaster Protection Committee, there are five danger zonesin Aung Chan Tha and Yadana Aung Myaewardsand three in Youkaw Kho 13-hill Ward.

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