Chinese mining threatens Tibetans' environment and life

Fresh protests against mining operations break out in Qinghai Province. Locals slam mountain deforestation and waterways pollution caused by complicity between mine owners and local and central government officials.

Dharamsala (AsiaNews/RFA) - Chinese mining operations in a Tibetan-populated region of Qinghai province are wrecking the environment, with mountains stripped bare and waterways polluted by runoff from the mines, sources told Radio Free Asia (RFA).

Tibetan villagers are protesting the mining work in the Tsojang (in Chinese, Haibei) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, but have been blocked by close ties between mine owners and higher authorities.

"The mine owners make a lot of money from the mines," RFA's source said, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

In order "to continue their work, they pay money to authorities at the provincial and central-government levels. [. . .] So when we appeal for help to local authorities in the county and prefecture, they cannot address our concerns," he said.

Last year, an elderly man named Ugyen Kyab from Gongma village in Tsojang's Kangtsa (Gangcha) county appealed to Chinese central authorities to take action against mining in the area. Instead of heeding his concerns, local authorities arrested him.

Moreover, payments of 100,000 yuan [U.S. ,090] promised in compensation to Tibetan nomads for the use of their land have also been denied.

Mineral surveys in Tsojang over the last few years revealed "rich deposits of iron, copper, and lime in our area," RFA's source said. "Now, the mining is going full swing, with no consideration given to the local environment," he added.

The land available for grazing nomads' herds has been drastically reduced. The mountains have been opened and stripped bare, causing diseases for both humans and animals. The valleys are filled with dust, falling eventually into rivers and brooks.

To top it off, miners' use of explosives has hindered local Tibetans' harvesting of cordyceps - a prized parasitic fungus sold for its purported medicinal properties.