In the villages that surround Letpadaung copper project in central Myanmar, the effects of the social investments made by Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper Limited ( "Myanmar Wanbao") are tangible. Myanmar Wanbao, together with the Myanmar Government and its Myanmar partners ME1 and MEHL, has married its community initiatives with Myanmar's development goals of "poverty alleviation", "inclusive growth" and "people-centred development".
Myanmar Wanbao is committed to the community, and the Letpadaung villagers have witnessed this through the company's actions. They have seen that despite the mine not being operational due to stoppages outside its control the mine has been reaching out to them in every way it can. This is why the majority of the people in the area have given their full support to the project.
Land Compensation and Subsidies
Since 2011, the partners of the Letpadaung project have paid three times of land compensation or subsidies to the villagers who had lost land in the project area.The criteria for the land compensation or subsidies was decided by the Myanmar government based on the Myanmar law and local market price for the land. The total amount of compensation and three times of subsidies is between 1,825,000Ks and 3,250,000Ks per acre depending on the type of land. The compensation plus the first subsidy is 100% claimed by the land-lost people. 66% of the total land-lost people have taken up second subsidies, which means the majority of villagers losing land are willing to release their land to the project.
Even though Myanmar Wanbao has met its legal requirements and has paid compensation and subsidies, the company has gone further to safeguard the livelihood and wellbeing of its community in the long term. Since July 2014, the company, together with its Myanmar partners and supervised by the Myanmar government, has created an annual Contribution payment to all the land-lost villagers between USD70 and USD160 per month depending on the number of jobs they are entitled to have because of land loss. Land-lost villagers had originally been promised jobs by Myanmar Wanbao (the number of which were dependent on how much land was given to the project), however due to the stoppages the company was unable to provide jobs through no fault of its own. So the contribution payment are given regularly cash payments every 6 months until a job materialises. This ensures that the land-lost villagers have the peace of mind that their basic livelihoods needs are met whilst they wait for a job at Myanmar Wanbao to materialise. This was done through extensive consultations and with the participation of the villagers. It included unprecedented extensive door-to-door consultations for months. Over 91% of 27 villages consulted through door to door meetings have supported the contribution plan, and over 70% of total land lost villagers in the project area have supported this plan. These numbers are considered by International Best Practice to have exceeded the requirements for majority acceptance of the mine project. We have also set up bank accounts for the villagers through the local bank to receive these payments directly into their personal accounts.
Community and Social Development (CSD) projects
While providing the basic livelihood to the land-lost people, Myanmar Wanbao, under the support and participation of the Myanmar government, attaches great importance to the community and social development in this area. It has done a great variety of CSD projects to improve people's life ranging from electricity supply, drinking water provision, road repairing to school and kindergarten building, scholarships, free medical services, etc. The mining company has connected 12,000 villagers to the national electric grid helping release thousands from "energy poverty". By the end of this year, more than 5,000 local villagers will get clean drinking water thanks to the company's water project. The mobile clinics have already offered over 80,000 free medical treatments in 50 villages around the project and over 1,200 students benefit from the schools we have built. Besides, we offered scholarships to more than 1,000 grade-ten or university students in local area in the past two years with an amount of 82 million Kyats. Critically, this community investment is beginning to take place in consultation with the local community.
Backwards and Forward Linkages: SMEs and Local Procurement
Myanmar Wanbao is promoting the first seeds of industrialisation in its community through the creation of forward and backward linkages from the mine. It is nurturing local small and medium enterprises in the community through its "pro-poor" procurement process. This is helping create new jobs, nurture entrepreneurial talent, and transfer skills and know-how which is benefiting the community and will contribute to the development of the whole region. Myanmar Wanbao's leadership agrees with President Thein Sein's message to ASEAN, that SME development is the route to poverty alleviation. The company believes that SMEs, when properly nurtured and supported, can be the source of economic security, balanced growth and inclusive development. So it has helped impacted villagers set up SMES in the food (agricultural), transport and construction sectors and these SME are thriving with the company's support – the transportation village contractors already have 26 trucks and they have started working with other clients. Local villagers have also set up a bricks factory, a concrete pipe factory, a pre-cast concrete slab factory and many more. Wanbao is committed to nurturing the SMEs around it through targeted procurement, capacity, building and advice where applicable.
Fiscal Linkages: Long-term benefit for the community and the country
Myanmar Wanbao will continue sharing the benefits of its project with the people of the region and the whole of Myanmar during the lifetime of the project. Once the mine is operational there are many other sources of benefit to the country - the country is estimated to have a direct economic benefit of USD 140 million per year in taxes, royalties, production share, etc and USD 150 million in terms of the local procurement. This will be used to help build this country further. Furthermore, 2% of the project's net profit will go towards community investment. The investment in the people of the region, in their skills and in infrastructure will make Letpadaung, and Sagaing Division an attractive destination for more foreign direct investment. Myanmar Wanbao is eager to continue maximising the developmental results of the project for the people of Letpadaung and Myanmar.
This news article is already published and reported to the public through the Standard Time Daily & Democracy Today (Myanmar version), New Light of Myanmar the Global (English version) newspapers dated on December 4, 2014 and Myanmar Times journal (English version) on December 8,2014.
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