YANGON, July 26 Myanmar has signed a revised
contract that increases its share of the profits from a
controversial Chinese-backed copper mine, the country's largest,
The revision is seen as an attempt by the government to
appease public anger over the project by giving the country a
bigger share of the profits, after protests last year that
triggered a violent police crackdown.
The new terms give the government 51 percent of the profits
from the Letpadaung copper mine in Monywa, 760 km (472 miles)
north of Yangon, far more than its original 4 percent share.
The mine's operators, Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd
(UMEHL), which is owned by Myanmar's military, and Myanmar
Wanbao, a unit of China North Industries Corp, a Chinese weapons
manufacturer, will get 30 percent and 19 percent respectively.
Under the original contract, the UMEHL got 45 percent and
Myanmar Wanbao got 51 percent of the mine's profits.
Villagers protested for months last year against the
project's expansion on what they said was thousands of acres of
illegally seized land.
The protest was a major test of the limits of reforms
introduced under President Thein Sein's quasi-civilian
Buddhist monks joined the protest, saying the project had
destroyed or damaged holy sites related to a famous Buddhist
teacher who died in 1923.
The protest ended on Nov. 29 when more than 100 people,
including many monks, were injured when riot police raided camps
set up by the protesting villagers, sparking outrage at the
government's use of force.
The mine contract's new terms provide for $3 million to be
set aside for corporate social responsibility activities.
"We welcome the changes in the profit-sharing ratio and
considerations for environmental protection and social
responsibility," said Khin San Hlaing, a member of parliament
from the National League for Democracy party of opposition
leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi drew rare criticism from
villagers in March after she defended a report by a panel she
chaired backing the mine's expansion despite concern over its
environmental impact and the land-grab accusations.
An activist said he doubted the revised contract and other
provisions would end opposition to the project.
"Some villagers may be satisfied if they are compensated
enough, but there are others who still want to see the whole
project scrapped," the activist, Aye Myint, told Reuters.
(Reporting by Aung Hla Tun in Yangon; Writing by Amy Sawitta
Lefevre; Editing by Alan Raybould and Robert Birsel)