Tibet is situated on a vast, high altitude plateau between India and China. Tibet, roughly the size of Western Europe (covering some 2.5 million square kilometers), existed as a sovereign nation for over two thousand years. In 1949/50 Tibet’s independence came to an end when the Chinese government illegally invaded. Since then, Tibetans have struggled under the Chinese government’s brutal regime in Tibet, which has claimed over 1 million lives. There are hundreds of political prisoners inside Tibet today and Tibetans who speak out against this state sponsored repression face arbitrary arrest, detention and even execution.
Since the invasion and occupation of Tibet, Tibetans have been denied their internationally recognized right to determine the use of their own natural resources.
The recent rush of Canadian junior mining companies to engage in exploratory drilling and mine operations in Tibet has sounded the alarm bells for Tibetans and Tibet support groups, both locally and around the world. If the currently proposed mines are not stopped, Canadian mining companies will have opened the floodgates for other foreign owned mining companies to strip the country and its people of their resources.
Students for a Free Tibet is calling on Canadian companies to cease operations and exploration in Tibet until the Tibetan people can freely determine the use of their own resources – particularly non renewable resources.
Mining in Tibet: Politically Motivated Development
In 1999, the Chinese government launched the “Western Development Strategy”, politically motivated plan designed to further consolidate control over Tibet through economic rather than military means. Claiming that the plan will bring “development” and “prosperity” as well as “national unity” to the region, million dollar investments have been made in large scale transportation and communication infrastructure, most notably the construction of the China-Tibet railway and major extractive projects like mine operations and oil pipelines.
Many of the Tibetan communities found near the proposed mining sites rely on agricultural based economy. Mine operations will destroy grazing lands, negatively impacting the livelihood of local residents. In some cases the desecration of lands cause by mine construction will force entire villages to be relocated.
Who Owns Tibet’s Resources?
Are Tibetans being consulted about the extraction of their own natural resources? China asserts it gained control over Tibet’s land and natural resources after illegally occupying the previously independent nation in 1949/50.
Since 1959 Tibetans have been denied the right to determine the use of their own natural resources. The United Nationals has recognized the Tibetan peoples’ rights to self determination which includes the right to own, develop, and control the use of their land and resources. Tibetans have been routinely denied these rights. (United Nations General Assembly Resolutions 1353, 1723, 2079)
The following conditions must be met before a foreign owned company engages in any form of mining related activity in Tibet to ensure the rights of the local communities are respected.
- Free, Prior and Informed consent is given by communities who would be affected by the proposed development before commencing operations.
- Consultation, on a short and long-term basis, with the Tibetan Government-in-Exile as the legitimate representative of the Tibetan people.
- Continued environmental, social, and cultural integrity of the area affected by mine operations on both a short and long-term basis.
The Canadian companies currently involved in Tibet have failed to fulfill these conditions and should immediately cease operations and withdraw from Tibet.
Tibetan Government in Exile’s Position
The Tibetan Government in Exile (TGiE), the true representative voice of the Tibetan people, has developed guidelines for international investment in Tibet. The guidelines state that any project should ensure that Tibetans are fully and freely consulted, with local Tibetan people agreeing that it provides benefit to them.
The Mining Industry’s Own Principles Rule out Mining in Tibet
“Corporate social responsibility” is more important than ever to ordinary Canadians and the global community. Failure to protect the environmental, social and human rights of the local communities where these companies do business threatens the operations, investment climate, economic viability and reputation of participating companies.