Myanmar revises controversial Chinese-backed mine deal

NAYPYIDAW - Myanmar has revised a controversial copper mine deal with a Chinese company, officials said Thursday, after a series of protests against the project that triggered a violent police crackdown.

The new terms give the Myanmar government 51 per cent of the revenue, Minister of Mines Myint Aung told parliament, in an apparent attempt to assuage public anger by giving the nation a share of the profits.

Chinese firm Wanbao will receive 30 per cent of the revenue from the Letpadaung mine while military-owned Myanmar Economic Holding (MEH) will take 19 per cent.

Previously the mine at Monywa in central Myanmar was a joint venture between Wanbao and MEH.

Wanbao will also contribute several million dollars each year for corporate social responsibility activities and for the eventual mine reclamation process, Myint Aung said.

A botched raid on a protest at the copper mine last November sparked an outpouring of anger after police used phosphorus against protesters, in the harshest crackdown since the end of military rule.

Dozens of monks and villagers were injured in the raid, which came as protesters tested the limits of new-found freedoms under a quasi-civilian government.

Even opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is normally venerated around the country, was heckled by villagers earlier this year after she recommended that the mine be allowed to go ahead, despite concerns over its environmental impact and land-grabbing.

Villagers living in the area said Thursday they would keep up their resistance to the project.

"Our intention is to stop the copper mine project completely," farmer San Maung told AFP by telephone, vowing to maintain peaceful opposition.

"We will protest if needed. We rely on this mountain for our living... We will also oppose it because there's no transparency," he added.

Rights campaigners have expressed concern at the continuing arrest of activists opposed to the mine in recent months, despite a pledge by President Thein Sein to free all political prisoners by the end of this year.