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Quarry on ice stalls highway upgrade

The large quarry, based in Myanmar’s Kayin State, which borders with Thailand, is licensed to Chit Linn Myaing Toyota Co, which in turn is leased to China’s state-run China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC).

Most of the quarrying operations in Kayin State, including that operated by CRBC, are contracted to provide crushed rock to upgrade the main road link with Thailand and part of the Asian Highway network.

The Chit Linn Myaing Toyota site is one of 23 quarries on Mount Lun Nya, most of which are small, locally owned pits. It is owned by the local warlord Colonel Saw Chit Thu, who heads one of the militias observing an uneasy ceasefire in the country’s long-running civil war.

However, local tensions have erupted since the CRBC’s Mount Lun Nya site ceased production in late 2018. This is because the company failed to meet compliance requirements set by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The ADB’s conditions were imposed after an incident in late 2017, when 13 villagers were fired upon as they went to inspect the site. It is thought the Border Guard Force (BGF), which provided security for the quarry, fired the shots. The BGF is headed by Colonel Saw and is a subdivision of the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Armed Forces) that was formed in 2009 from a local insurgent group involved in the civil war.

Road development

After decades of civil war and international isolation, Myanmar is one of the most underdeveloped countries in Asia. For significant periods of the year, much of the country is inaccessible by land. During the wet season in particular, many of its roads are flooded, and in the dry season many turn to dust.

The Asian Highway upgrade is being funded by a $USD100 million ($AUD145 million) loan from the ADB.

Farmers and other locals close to Mount Lun Nya complained that they hadn’t been consulted about CRBC’s large quarrying operations. They expressed concern about the environmental affects and said the operations had caused some damage to houses in a nearby village.

Residents of other villages, however, have remarked that the cessation of production at the CRBC site has been disastrous for progress on the Asian Highway upgrade. The delays are affecting their livelihoods and robbing them of employment opportunities.

“What I would like to demand now is to restart the mining process,” Mar Aye, a former quarry worker, told Al Jazeera. “We’ve been praying for this. When people work in mining, their lives are in good condition but now they’re facing challenges. Everyone is in a difficult situation.”

In mid-2018, the ADB told publication Frontier it had suspended payments to CRBC “due to non-compliance with ADB safeguard and government environmental requirements”.

A review of the project found the quarry had not received an environmental compliance certificate (ECC), which is issued by the Myanmar Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation.

An ECC confirms that the applicant’s initial environmental examination, impact assessment and management plan are in compliance with Myanmar’s environmental conservation law.

Frontier also reported that the involvement of the BGF had spooked the ADB. The bank’s board had reportedly decided not to allow the quarry to be used for the Asian Highway project, even if an ECC was issued for the site.

 

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