Thu, Apr 13, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Over 100 urge cancelation of mining rights extension

TAROKO GORGE:Protesters questioned the 20-year extension granted to Asia Cement ahead of a legislative review on adopting stricter environmental standards

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

An Aboriginal child holds a placard that reads “Tribal members going north” as a group of Aborigines from Taroko Gorge, Hualien County, protest in front of the Executive Yuan in Taipei against the decision to extend Asia Cement Corp’s mining contract in the gorge area.

Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times

Aborigines and environmental advocates yesterday rallied outside the Executive Yuan in Taipei, calling for the withdrawal of an extension to Asia Cement’s mining rights near the Taroko Gorge.

More than 100 protesters gathered to present the petition, which came after a 20-year extension was granted shortly before the Ministry of Economic Affairs agreed to freeze new approvals while the legislature considers amendments to the Mining Act (礦業法) to include stricter environmental reviews and agreement from Aboriginal communities.

“Extending the mining rights by another 20 years is unjust,” said Omi Wilang, an Atayal member of the Presidential Office’s Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee.

The company used deception and fraud to forcibly relocate more than 50 Truku households when it began excavations in the 1970s, Citizens of the Earth researcher Pan Cheng-cheng (潘正正) said.

“Even though the firm has agreed to voluntarily withdraw from Taroko Gorge National Park, the people who have been affected by its mining operations still do not have the opportunity to exercise their most basic rights,” Pan said, adding that the Truku community was not informed before the mining rights extension was granted.

“After decades of efforts, a few of the community’s members finally succeeded in recovering their land deeds, only to find that they are effectively just scraps of paper that do not even come with the right to walk on their own land,” she said.

Aboriginal rights promoters have contended that the Indigenous Peoples Basic Law (原住民族基本法) should be amended to grant Aboriginal communities veto power over new development on traditional land.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬), coconvener of the legislature’s Economics Committee and head of the villagers’ legal team, promised to establish a special legislative committee to investigate the history of the mine, as well as the decision to grant an extension of the mining rights.

Asia Cement said in a statement that its mining operations were established with the cooperation of the central government, which provided local villagers with compensation before awarding the firm usage rights.

The mining rights extension was granted after reviews by 14 government bodies based on 35 criteria, not “smuggled through,” it added.

Additional reporting by Yang Ya-min

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