Chinese nationals are reportedly planning to extract gold from Peophru Island in the Laymro River in Mrauk-U Township in western Burma’s Arakan State, under the guise of constructing a hydropower project on the island.
Local youth from the regional capital Sittwe, who recently returned from the island after studying the proposed hydropower project, said the equipment that is being brought in by the Chinese to the island are those used for gold mining.
“There is widespread news in our region that a Chinese company will construct a hydropower plant on Poephru Island, but what the Chinese have now brought to the island are the machinery, plastic pipes, and baskets that are used in extracting and panning for gold. That equipment suggests that the Chinese are preparing to find gold on the island and will not be constructing the hydropower plant,” said the youth on condition of anonymity.
U Kyaw Tun Aung, a retired archaeologist from Mrauk-U, also said that Poephru Island is noted for it’s gold deposits in the ancient history of Arakan.
“There are two islands, known as Maung Nyo and Poephru, in the Laymro River. According Arakanese historical records, the islands got their names from a husband and wife who were banished to the islands as punishment for their bad sons during the reign of King Min Htee. At the age of Laymro when King Nankyagree ruled, Poephru Island became famous because gold was found there,” said U Kyaw Tun Aung.
A resident from downtown Mrauk-U also confirmed that some of the Chinese machinery and equipment that will be shipped to the island are still being kept in the town.
“Yes, it has been already a month since the Chinese nationals have arrived in our town and they are still keeping some of the machinery and equipment within a fence on a plot of ground near the Shitetaung Pagoda. I do not know what kind of things they are, but most people here say they are used for extracting gold,” said the resident.
The youth said there will be environmental damage and negative impacts on the local residents if either of the projects – gold mining or a hydropower plant – are carried out on the island in the Laymro River.
“The river banks will collapse and the cultivation along the river will be damaged, and the fish will be wiped out if any of the projects are carried out in the river. Most of the people living along the river are earning their livelihood from cultivation and their lives would be badly affected as well,” said the youth.
There are over 60 villages along the Laymro River and the villagers primarily depend on the river not only for their cultivation but also for their washing and drinking water.
The Laymro River is one of the four main rivers in Arakan State and it is abundant in natural beauty. Many tourists are said to have visited the river to view the natural scenery this year.
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