Taipei, June 25 (CNA) Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Taipei on Sunday in protest against a decision by the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) to extend the stone mining rights of a cement company in Hualien County.
The crowd, estimated by the organizers at about 8,000, called on the MOEA to revoke the rights granted to Asia Cement Corp to continue stone mining in the eastern country’s Xiulin Township for another 20 years.
After marching to Ketagalan Boulevard, the protesters gathered in front of the Presidential Office and stood in a formation that represented the shape of Taiwan.
The protesters also called for an amendment to the Mining Act to mandate environmental impact assessments on mining projects.
Asia Cement has been operating a stone quarry in aboriginal territory in Xinchengshan near Taroko National Park for about 43 years without any environmental impact assessments or the consent of the indigenous community there, said Pan Cheng-cheng (潘正正), a researcher with the environmental group Citizen of the Earth.
He noted that the environmental impact assessment law was enacted 12 years ago and the Indigenous Peoples Basic Law has been in place for 22 years.
The extension of Asia Cement’s mining rights for another 20 years violates the Mining Act, the Indigenous Peoples Basic Law and the Geology Act, Pan said.
He said Asia Cement has been allowed to bypass environmental impact assessments even though its Xinchengshan quarry is only 300 meters from an aboriginal community and is near two creeks that are prone to flooding.
In response, the Presidential Office said Sunday that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has already made it clear that the Mining Act will be amended, after which a review of mining rights at all quarries and environmental impact assessments will be required as part of the application for the extension of mining rights.
Asia Cement also issued a statement, saying its quarries were not in Taroko National Park and that it was abiding by the laws and regulations on environmental protection.
The company said it will continue to work in line with the government’s policy of striking a balance between economic growth and environmental protection.
Meanwhile, a petition against the extension of Asia Cement’s mining rights has gained more than 210,000 signatures.
The petition was launched after the deforestation of an area in and around Taroko National Park was highlighted by a filmmaker who died recently in a helicopter crash.
Just days before his death, Chi Po-lin (齊柏林) said he had compared recent photos of the mining area with images in his acclaimed 2013 documentary and found that the area had grown significantly.
Chi’s documentary “Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above” (看見台灣) has gained new resonance since he was killed in a helicopter crash on June 10.
Source: Focus Taiwan