Environmental groups yesterday filed an administrative lawsuit against the Ministry of Economic Affairs for its “illegal” approval of an extension of Asia Cement Corp’s (亞泥) mining permit for its quarry in Hualien County’s Sincheng Township (新城).
The ministry on March 14 approved the company’s application for extending its permit for another 20 years, but many environmentalists said the procedure was hasty and illegal.
Aerial footage by late film director Chi Po-lin (齊柏林) shows that the company’s mine has expanded. Its re-emergence after Chi’s death on June 10 brought more attention to the issue and prompted about 8,000 people to join a march against the extension on June 25.
On Oct. 12, the Control Yuan published its investigation report on the case, saying that the Executive Yuan, the ministry and the Hualien County Government did not act according to the law in reviewing the company’s application.
Asia Cement did not conduct an adequate survey of disaster risks around the mine, and it contravened the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act (文化資產保存法), as its mine overlaps the Fu-shih Ruins (富世遺址) in Sincheng, it said.
The report indicated the failure of ministers without portfolio Chang Ching-sen (張景森) and Lin Wan-i (林萬億) to observe Article 21 of the Indigenous Peoples Basic Act (原住民族基本法), which stipulates that developers should obtain the approval of local Aborigines if they want to conduct projects on their land.
The Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association and some residents from Sincheng yesterday gathered in front of the Taipei High Administrative Court’s entrance to protest the government’s negligence and submit their bill of complaint to the court.
The company has exploited the mine for about 43 years, often conducting explosive operations twice a day, Anti-Asia Cement Self-help Association deputy director Pai Cheng-shih (白誠實) said.
Authorities should start reforming the mining industry, stop approving improper extensions of mining operations, attend to Aboriginal rights by observing the Indigenous Peoples Basic Act, incorporate environmental impact assessments into the Mining Act (礦業法) and allow local people to attend review meetings for applications to extend mining rights, Pai said.
The ministry should withdraw their illegal approval, rather than waiting for judicial authorities to force it to do so, Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association lawyer Tsai Ya-ying (蔡雅瀅) said.
The Mining Act is one of the 72 priority bills in this legislative session, but a review of its amendments has not been scheduled.
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