Wed, Aug 06, 2014 - Page 4 News List

Environmentalists warn of mining threat to trees

BEECH PROTECTION:Citizens of the Earth and Wild at Heart said a proposed mining operation by Wanta took advantage of a legal loophole in planning rules

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Environmental protection groups yesterday warned about an imminent threat facing Taiwan beech trees, Fagus hayatae, in Yilan County’s Lankan and Dabai mountains where a mining project has been proposed to the Environmental Protection Administration.

Taiwan beech is one of the five rare plant species listed by the Forestry Bureau under the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act (文化資產保存法) in 1988.

Citizens of the Earth, Taiwan and the Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association told a press conference in Taipei that an environmental impact assessment ad hoc committee would today review an environmental impact report submitted by Wanta, a mining corporation.

Forestry Bureau Deputy Director-General Yang Hung-chih (楊宏志) said that once the report is passed, the committee would grant the company the right to mine a lode in a 12 hectare area spanning the mountains.

The company could commence mining once it identifies and leases a property deemed suitable by the bureau, he added.

Citizens of the Earth member Lu Yi-chi (呂翊齊) said that Article 9 of the Forestry Act (森林法) states that mining and gravel excavation activities taking place in a forest must be filed with and approved by the Forestry Bureau.

Lu said the forestry act is flawed because while developments in forest areas are required to go through a land-use change procedure overseen by local governments or the Construction and Planning Agency, the act allows mining projects to be carried out in forests without the requirement.

Lu said that the Forestry Act created a loophole in the Regional Plan Act (區域計畫法), which has over the past two to three decades allowed miners to operate in forests.

He called on the bureau to outlaw mining in all environmentally sensitive areas, including forests reserved for national defense purposes and as water catchment areas.

Other demands made by the groups include that the bureau immediately establish a Taiwan beech conservation zone in the proposed mining site and that authorities ensure that miners fulfill their pledge to restore any flora that they remove.

The groups also called for legislative amendments to incorporate mining activities into the Regional Plan Act.

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