The Executive Yuan should nullify Asia Cement Corp’s (亞泥) “illegal” permits immediately, or protesters would march in Taipei on Sunday, two environmental advocacy groups told a news conference yesterday.
The company’s mining activities in Hualien County’s Sincheng Township (新城) have triggered environmental concerns, after the late documentary filmmaker Chi Po-lin’s (齊柏林) aerial footage appeared to show that the company has expanded its mining operations.
Asia Cement obtained permits for its Sincheng mine in 1957, which were set to expire in November, but the Bureau of Mines in late March extended the permits for another 20 years to 2037, allowing the company to bypass an environmental impact assessment.
The environmental group Citizen of the Earth, Taiwan (CET) in late March initiated an online petition calling for the abolition of the company’s permits.
The petition has garnered more than 210,000 signatures, about 168,000 of which were added after Chi’s death in a helicopter crash in Hualien on June 10.
Premier Lin Chuan (林全) on Tuesday last week said he had instructed the Ministry of Economic Affairs to explain to the public within one week why the extensions for the company’s permits were granted.
CET consultant Tsai Chung-yueh (蔡中岳) said the Executive Yuan should simply cancel the extensions, rather than putting off dealing with the issue.
“We cannot help but wonder what they have been doing since Tuesday,” Tsai said. “We hope they can speed up the abolition of the permits and put through the [proposed] amendments to the Mining Act (礦業法).”
Minister Without Portfolio Chang Ching-sen (張景森) has played a key role in helping the company obtain extended permits and evade regulations, he said.
New Power Party Legislator Kawlo Iyun Pacidal said the government has been ignoring Article 21 of the Indigenous Peoples Basic Act (原住民族基本法), which stipulates that developers who want to exploit indigenous land must obtain the consent of the Aboriginal peoples affected.
In a closed-door meeting on Nov. 7 last year, Chang decided the article is not applicable to the extension of mining permits, Kawlo said, adding that the minister has been abusing his political power to cover up for the company.
“We hope the Executive Yuan can take Article 21 into serious account in discussions about Asia Cement’s case,” she said.
CET researcher Pan Cheng-cheng (潘正正) said the group was not targeting Asia Cement.
However, while Taiwan Cement Corp (台泥) uses only 1.15 to 1.25 tonnes of limestone to produce 1 tonne of cement, Asia Cement uses 1.6 tonnes, she said, adding that the latter is unwilling to upgrade its production technique or to undergo an environmental impact assessment.
Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association lawyer Hsieh Meng-yu (謝孟羽) said a lawsuit would be filed against the decisionmaking authorities in the Supreme Administrative Court if they did not abolish the company’s illegal permits.
The CET said it has planned a series of follow-up activities, including a Saturday screening of the documentary We Fight for Our Lands (我們為土地而戰) by Bauki Angaw, as well as speeches by various environmental campaigners.
A march in front of the Executive Yuan is to follow on Sunday.
Asked how many protesters are expected to join the march, Pan said the group hopes to attract as many people as the online petition.
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