Canadian Treasure Hunt in Tibet Triggers Protest

Canadian Treasure Hunt in Tibet Triggers Protest

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Canada, October 21, 2010 (ENS) – Tibetans around the world, including their supporters in Canada, have launched a major offensive to stop Canadian mining operations in their homeland. On Saturday, dozens of Tibetans and Tibet supporters protested outside the Terminal Club in Vancouver, where China Gold International Resources Corporation held a special shareholders meeting.

Demonstrators called on the company to immediately withdraw from Tibet, as shareholders and executives of China Gold gathered to finalize the acquisition of a copper mine in Gyama, close to Lhasa, Tibet’s capital.

The sacred area is the birthplace of the major Tibetan historical figure, King Songtsen Gampo, who unified the Tibetan empire in the seventh century.

Demonstrators in front of the Terminal Club protest mining in Tibet, October 16, 2010 (Photo by Tenzing Palden and Julia St. Pierre courtesy Vancouver Media Co-op)

“Tibetans on the ground in Gyama, Tibet have been leading the way for many years now, by protesting against the destruction of their environment and entire way of life by companies like China Gold International,” said Raymond Yee of the Vancouver branch of the Canada Tibet Committee, who was barred from entering the meeting, despite being a shareholder.

“Now, this company which is essentially owned and controlled by the Communist Chinese Government but headquartered in Vancouver is using the Canadian financial markets to raise money to exploit the already dire situation in Tibet.”

“Despite China’s repression, active opposition to mining activity by Tibetans inside Tibet is growing and this protest spotlighted unethical operations in Tibet,” said Tenzin Wangkhang, national director of Students for a Free Tibet Canada.

“As a Tibetan-Canadian, I know first-hand the human rights violations my people suffer under Chinese rule and China Gold is making the situation even worse for Tibetans,” said Wangkhang. “Tibetans and supporters will not stop until these mining companies are no longer profiting at the expense of the Tibetan people.”

The Gyama mine is in Meldro Gunkar County, about 70 kilometers northeast of Lhasa. It is the result of consolidating several smaller operations by China Nation Gold Group, a Chinese state owned company, in partnership with the previous operators. Protests against mining in Meldro Gunkar started in the early 1990’s soon after the miners moved in to exploit the ore deposits.

Farm and grazing land was confiscated, and animals died because of toxic materials released in drinking water. Several Tibetans were tortured and given lengthy prison terms for non-violent protests against the activities of the miners.

Protests have continued up until the present, the last internationally reported protest being in August 2009. The Canadian protests were in support of the residents of Meldro Gunkar.

Across Tibet, there has been an increase in the number of protests regarding mining projects over the last decade. China began a program to exploit Tibet’s resources in the 1990’s.

Waving the Tibetan flag, a protester marches in front of the China Gold International Resources meeting, October 16, 2010. (Photo by Tenzing Palden and Julia St. Pierre courtesy Vancouver Media Co-op)

Tibet has 126 known minerals, including rich deposits of chromium, copper, iron and boron. In 2007, China’s top geologist confirmed that vast deposits of copper, iron, lead and zinc had been found along the route of the newly opened railway, indicating that a primary purpose of the railway is to open up Tibet’s mineral wealth for rapid extraction, according to the Canada -Tibet committee.

One copper deposit in Qulong, Tibet, has a proven reserve of 7.89 million tons, making it the second largest copper find in China and Tibet. The Government of China has also acknowledged that mining is now one of Lhasa’s “pillar industries.”

With these developments, there has been an unprecedented increase in exploration and investment in Tibet’s extractive sector. Chinese, Canadian and British mining companies have taken the lead, often in joint ventures and with considerable support from their governments.

Canadian companies actively mining in Tibetan regions, or are poised to begin, include Inter-Citic Minerals Inc, Silk Road Resources Ltd., Continental Minerals (Hunter Dickinson), Eldorado Gold Corp, Maxy Gold Corp, Silvercorp Metals Inc., and Sterling Group Ventures Inc.

China Gold International Resources Corp Ltd is a TSX listed mining company trading under the symbol CGG that is focused on gold production and acquisitions. Its principal property is the Chang Shan Hao Gold Mine, one of China’s largest gold mines.

The company in a statement said that upon the acquisition of Gyama, China Gold International Resources will become one of the largest gold/copper producers among Hong Kong listed companies.

In addition, the acquisition will act as a catalyst for China Gold International Resources to establish itself as the only flagship overseas vehicle of the China National Gold Group and to benefit from international mining opportunities made available to China Gold International Resources.

Mining in Tibet is a contentious issue. Tibetans have long professed the faith of holding nature as too sacred to be disturbed. But with more and more mining companies from Canada operating in Tibet, activists say there is a great danger to the region’s fragile ecosystem.

Critics say Chinese and foreign mining companies are taking “undue advantage” of the troubled Tibetan situation to exploit Tibet’s untapped mineral wealth. They argue that no significant effort is made to consult the Tibetan people or to seek their informed consent on the issue.

The restless protests by Tibetan exiles and voiceless anguish of Tibetans in Tibet are often too meek to challenge the Communist China’s discretionary authority to exploit the region’s rich mineral reserves, which were kept untapped until the Chinese occupation.

{This report is republished with permission from Asian Pacific Post, a weekly English language Asian newspaper published in Vancouver, British Columbia.}

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.

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