Myanmar increases stake in China-invested mine

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 July, 2013, 5:44am

Myanmar has signed a revised contract that increases its share of the profits from a controversial Chinese-backed copper mine, the country's largest, officials said.

The revision is seen as an attempt by the government to appease public anger over the project by giving the country a bigger share of the profits.

The new terms give the government 51 per cent of the profits from the Letpadaung copper mine in Monywa, 760 kilometres north of Yangon, far more than its original 4 per cent share.

The mine's operators, Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd (UMEHL), which is owned by Myanmar's military, and Myanmar Wanbao, a unit of China North Industries Corporation, a Chinese weapons manufacturer, will get 30 per cent and 19 per cent respectively.

Under the original contract, UMEHL received 45 per cent and Myanmar Wanbao got 51 per cent of the mine's profits.

Villagers protested for months last year against the project's expansion on what they said was thousands of hectares of illegally seized land.

The protest ended in late November when more than 100 people, including many monks, were injured when riot police raided camps set up by the protesting villagers, sparking outrage at the government's use of force.

The mine contract's new terms provide for US$3 million to be set aside for corporate social responsibility activities.

An activist, Aye Myint, said he doubted the revised contract and other provisions would end opposition to the project. "Some villagers may be satisfied if they are compensated enough, but there are others who still want to see the whole project scrapped."