Dozens of residents from Hsinchu County’s Cyonglin Township (芎林) yesterday voiced their opposition to a government proposal to establish a sand and gravel mining operation in the area.
Forty residents from the township’s Yongsing (永興), Wulong (五龍) and Hualong (華龍) villages expressed their concern at the first environmental impact assessment meeting for the project, saying that the mining operation could turn the area into the “next Siaolin Village (小林),” a village buried by a massive mudslide when Typhoon Morakot hit the nation in 2009.
The Bureau of Mines has proposed setting up a sand and gravel mining operation on a hillside in the township’s Wangyekeng (王爺坑) and Luliaokeng (鹿寮坑). The operation, which will cover 72.8 hectares, would include the three villages.
Domestic gravel is mainly sourced from river banks, but three decades of extraction have depleted the resources, especially in the north, the bureau has said.
To diversify its supply sources, the bureau says it needs to speed up gravel mining projects on land to stave off potential shortages in the future.
The Cyonglin project could yield a total of 17.7 million square meters of sand and gravel over the proposed 15-year period, with mining being carried out in three stages.
However, residents expressed concern over the potential adverse effects a mining operation could have.
“The hillside will become bald and we will have to endure sand and dust being blown by the wind,” a resident surnamed Feng (馮) said.
Civic environmental group Citizens of the Earth, Taiwan, said that all the trees in the mining area would have to be cut down to make way for the project.
Moreover, the proposed base of the project is Toucian River (頭前溪), a protected water supply area, the group said, expressing concern that the operation may seriously affect the quality of household water for tens of thousands of people living downstream.
What is even more worrying is the potential for land collapse or mudslides, the group said.
The Forestry Bureau said ecological surveys have shown that several rare or protected animal species live in the area.