Nearly 150 local residents from villages around the Latpadaung area held a protest on Friday as mining activities recommenced at a controversial copper mine project in Sagaing division.
Speaking to DVB, some of the demonstrators including Buddhist monks said that gunpowder explosions marked the resumption of the Chinese-backed project which was suspended after an incident last November when riot police brutally put down a peaceful protest at the site injuring more than 100 activists, some of whom were severely burnt by incendiary devices fired by the police.
A commission headed by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was subsequently formed by the Burmese government and in March it recommended that operations at the copper mine project be allowed to recommence much to the displeasure of activist and local farmers.
Speaking to DVB on Friday, Ar Thaw Ka, a monk from nearby Zee Taw village, confirmed that explosions were heard on Thursday near a Buddhist ordination hall and temple built by revered monk Sayadaw Lete [Lete Abbot].
Last month, the Sagaing division government’s religious affairs minister promised that the historical site would not be affected by the continuation of work at the copper mine site after some 70 activists and monks set off on a 120-km march from Amarapura in Mandalay division towards the Latpadaung copper mine to demand that the ancient Buddhist site be protected.
San Maung, one of the protesters on Friday, called on the mining companies involved to consider the livelihoods of local residents and the potential impact on the environment.
The copper mine project is a joint venture between Chinese company Wanbao and the Burmese military-backed Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings.