By Tenzin Dharpo
Mining waste abandoned at random at the Drongkhog mountain range [Photo- Chinese Ministry of Ecology and Environment]
DHARAMSHALA, Oct. 4: Gold mining operations by private and state owned companies are flouting stipulated procedures for waste disposal and mine management at the irreversible expense of the local environment in occupied Tibet, rights group Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy said on Friday.
Tibetan areas in Machu County and Sangchu County in Kanlho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province have been exposed to first-hand evils of irreversible environmental damage and poisoning of drinking water sources with cyanide, arsenic, mercury and lead because of “little to no regulatory oversight” despite attempts at improvement two years ago in keeping with president Xi Jinping’s much-publicised rhetoric on ecological protection, TCHRD said which cited findings of a Chinese central government inspection conducted from 27 to 28 July this year.
Perpetrators identified were gold mining companies such as the state-owned Gansu Maqu Gold Industry Co., Ltd. and the Xiahe County Binghua Mining Co. Ltd. which had been found to be flouting procedure stipulated by the environmental authorities.
Citing a report published in the Beijing News
on 29 August, the rights group said that the mining companies had polluted the environment through random disposal of slag waste, discharging wastewater indiscriminately and other “serious” environmental transgressions. It further noted that the local authorities and mining companies had made slow progress on mine renovation and restoration work thus aggravating environmental risks.
On the ground though, the unregulated practices have resulted in poisoning of water bodies that are used for the consumption of both human as well as cattle. The concentration of hazardous metals such as mercury and arsenic, both extremely poisonous to humans, have exceeded the permissible limits by 285 times and six times respectively.
Also solid mining wastes posing dangers of cyanide poisoning are not disposed according to proper procedures. Inspections found that in some mines, heaps of waste weighing as much as 9 million tons stacked into a heap as high as 50 metres were found to have left undisposed.
Revenue from mining operations in occupied Tibet account for a huge chunk for China’s industrial fodder and a raw material for its leap in global economic conquests. However, the exploits are undertaken at a break-neck speed and at the expense of local ecological destruction and irreversible environmental consequences.