Junta links put spotlight on sale of Australian company’s mine in Myanmar

Singapore: An Australian company is under fire over the proposed sale of a mine in the troubled south-east Asian nation of Myanmar to an outfit with alleged links to the military junta.

Perth-based Myanmar Metals, whose shareholders include prominent miner and Rich Lister Mark Creasy, has announced plans to offload its 51 per cent stake of the Bawdwin mine in north-east Shan state near Myanmar’s border with China, having outlined problems financing the project following a coup in the country in February.

The Bawdwin project was once run by Herbert Hoover, who went on to become US President.

But Myanmar Metals’ $US30 million ($A40.9 million) sale is being challenged by civil society groups, who have lodged a complaint with the Australian National Contact Point (AusNCP), an Australian government agency which gauges multinationals’ adherence to OECD guidelines for business conduct.

One of the world’s leading silver, lead and zinc mine deposits, the mine is forecast to generate $US2.9 billion over the next 13 years once it is operational. Activists fear its profits will end up in the hands of a military regime whose bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters and opponents of its takeover has left more than 1000 dead.

Myanmar remains in a state of chaos seven months after the army took over, arresting elected civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and detaining more than 6400 others including Australian economist and Suu Kyi adviser Sean Turnell.

Clancy Moore, the Australian director of NGO coalition Publish What You Pay, which has filed the protest alongside 245 Myanmar-based groups, said the sale could “lead to millions of dollars of revenue lining the pockets of Myanmar’s murderous generals once the mine becomes operational”.

“The company should divest from the project in a responsible and transparent manner. This means doing proper human rights due diligence, disclosing proposed contracts and consulting local communities.”

Creasy, who has a fortune of $857 million according to The Australian Financial Review Rich List, has an 11 per cent stake in Myanmar Metals.

The sale, to be voted on by shareholders on September 24, is to Win Myint Mo Industries (WMM), a Myanmar entity which is already a joint venture partner in the Bawdwin mine and whose links with a military-aligned conglomerate have raised alarm bells.


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