Rapid development in mining in Myanmar is putting communities at risk. Pollution, inhumane business and labor practices, and violence are some of the many issues affecting communities and civil society leaders. With the support of Trocaire, the overseas development agency of the Catholic Church in Ireland, the EarthRights School Myanmar Alumni Program organized a six day workshop on mining in Yangon, Myanmar. The purpose of this workshop is to empower our civil society leaders working on mining issues and to equip them to help vulnerable communities protect their lands and their environment. More than a dozen alumni joined the workshop, including three alumni from our Health and EarthRights Training (HEART), a joint program between EarthRights International and the Mae Tao Clinic. For security reasons, our alumni have chosen to remain anonymous.
During the first day of the workshop, alumni had an opportunity to share information on mining cases they work on, discuss challenges they face, and strategies that are used in different regions to address those issues. During the following three days, retired members of the Myanmar Ministry of Mines who are currently working with the Myanmar Green Network provided legal and technical knowledge on mining, with a focus on Myanmar.
One alumnus working on coal mining in Dawei, in southern Myanmar, said that: “It was very useful for us to get knowledge from an expert on mining. I knew about the mining law, but I didn’t know about the procedure to get the permission to conduct mining. There are many steps that the companies don’t respect. Knowing about the mining procedure will allow us to closely monitor the mining companies and pressure them to follow the procedures by sending complaint letters to the relevant government departments. It is highly important data and very useful for us to pressure the companies.”
During the last two days of the workshop, ERI’s Myanmar Campaigns Coordinator, Bo Bo Aung, provided strategic planning mentoring in order to help the participants develop effective campaign strategies. One alumnus working on the Maw Chi mining case in Kayah State, in eastern Myanmar, commented that “it was very interesting to hear about how other countries or ethnic groups do advocacy and understand what campaign strategies they use to address the mining issue.”
During the workshop, alumni also met with U Aung Kyaw Sin the Editor of the Earth Journal, a newspaper focused on environmental issues and mining. The journalist was eager to publish alumni stories on their mining cases and our Local Program Coordinator for Myanmar Alumni Program, Raa Hoo Lar, is facilitating the exchange of information between five alumni and the Earth Journal. This workshop was also an opportunity to support the development of valuable connections among alumni working on similar issues and the first step towards the development of a strong issue-based network.
Overall, alumni were very satisfied, as highlighted by an alumnus who is the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) representative for Kayah State: “I particularly liked to learn about the mining law and I will use it in my work to protect the environment and my community.”
Next year, ERI’s Alumni Program Myanmar will organize a follow-up meeting with Trocaire, to exchange information, encourage cooperative action and provide follow-up support.