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Mining in Tibet

The Tibetan Autonomous Region, a territory of China, is a resource-rich land, ripe with large stores of copper, oil, lithium, chromite, uranium and gold.

As a result, the government of China displaces numerous Tibetans. The Central Tibetan Administration reports that around 240 mining sites have replaced once-nomadic sites. The China National Gold Group is a government-sponsored organization that owns mines in the Tibetan plateau.

The Stop Mining in Tibet movement states that local Tibetans do not benefit in any capacity from the numerous mines that have sprung up. Stop Mining in Tibet equates the process as looting and calls for its immediate termination. Canadian corporations, in collaboration with the Chinese government, exploit the mines and not only negatively affect the Tibetans in the area, but also do ecological damage to the Tibetan plateau.

Mining sites created near the continent’s largest rivers, such as the Yangtze and the Yellow, are threatened with pollution of its waters. The pollution poses such a danger that India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh may also be affected by polluted waters because they are downstream.

Historically, Tibetans limited their mining, considering the land to be sacred. Now, many of Tibet’s resources are funneled straight into the rapidly industrializing China, with very little benefit towards the pastoral Tibetan community.

Furthermore, with over 6 million nomadic Tibetans in the region, this displacement comes at a time when Tibetan refugee acceptance is in a current decline, according to the BBC.

Displacement of the pastoral communities in Tibet was alleged to have begun in the early 2000s, but recent reports have seen the phenomenon gain more ground. Further information is largely limited, as foreign reporters are restricted in their coverage by the Chinese government.

This past April, a landslide found over 80 miners trapped in the Jiama mine. The Chinese government stated that mining did not cause the landslide, but the Tibetan government in exile, operating from India, claims otherwise.

The majority of the miners found trapped were Han Chinese, with a report of only two Tibetan miners. The majority of miners are not Tibetan themselves, but rather hail from outside the Tibetan region.

With the Chinese government claiming Tibetan land for the betterment of China and a Tibetan government operating from a large distance away, pastorals are left to the whims of governmental decree. In this case, scores of their community are largely displaced. Protest movements exist – but what is a land-rich in resources is sorely lacking in human rights.

Miles Abadilla

Sources: BBC 1, 2, Central Tibetan Administration, The Economist, Stop Mining Tibet
Photo: Asia News