Hundreds of Mon State Locals Call for Closure of Coal-Powered Antimony Refinery

 Locals protest the factory to draw attention to the unbearable stench coming from it.


Tuesday, July 24, 2018

More than 200 people demonstrated to demand the closure of a coal-powered antimony refinement factory in Mawlamyine’s industrial zone on Sunday, citing a stench spreading from the site that is causing ill health among locals.

Ko Zaw Zaw Han, one of the protest leaders, told NMG that he hoped Burma’s leadership would learn of the locals’ struggle through the demonstration. The factory is located in Nyaungpin Seik village tract in Mon State’s Kyaikmayaw Township.

“Locals have suffered from the bad smells coming from the factory. We don’t want this factory running in this industrial zone. We want it to move elsewhere,” Ko Zaw Zaw Han said. “Local people have health problems. We already reported it to the government, but officials told us the smell was not that bad and would disappear.”

This, however, has not been the case, he insisted, explaining that the odor has caused locals to persistently cough, vomit, and suffer headaches and difficulty breathing. “The smell lasts the whole day and the whole night. That’s why we staged a protest—to let the President know.”

Protest organizers say they will next launch a signature campaign from locals who want the antimony refinery to close. Organizers will send the collected signatures to President Win Myint.

“We live near the factory. People get sick and vomit from the smell. The factory must contain it, so it doesn’t spread out,” said U Thaung Tin, a local who also participated in Sunday’s protest.

Participants in the demonstrations chanted slogans calling for an investigation into the officials who allowed the antimony refinery to open, and for an intervention by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Mon State government gave permission in October and November 2017 for two antimony refineries to test operations—Northeast White Elephant, and Myanmar Shin Shin, respectively.

“If people suffer from smells from our factory, let us know. We will solve the problem,” Daw Yadana Lin Aung, managing director of Myanmar Shin Shin antimony refinery, told NMG. She described the factory as “small” and that they controlled any “leaks.”

“We have followed the rules and regulations ordered by the government,” she added.

Dr. Min Kyi Win, the Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation in Mon State, said on July 10 that the government had instructed antimony refineries to get the noxious smells under control, and that action would be taken against those who did not.

There are six antimony refineries in Mawlamyine’s industrial zone. The previous government—headed by former General Thein Sein—allowed an antimony refinery to test operations in the area, but locals around the factory suffered ill health effects. The state government subsequently closed the site. The current government—headed by the National League for Democracy—gave permission to re-open the factories.