Hundreds of protesting villagers gathered outside the phosphate mine in Laodong Township, Mabian County, in Sichuan Province on Sept. 15 to voice their concerns over the effects of phosphate mining on their health and the environment. They were attacked by about 200 armed thugs hired by the company to crush them, according to the activist website molihua.org.
“Armed with knives and guns, they threatened to kill the villagers,” a villager told the Radio Free Asia (RFA).
Villagers fought back with kitchen knives and farming hoes. They seized some of the thugs’ weapons and threw them into a car used by the thugs, then flipped the car over. More villagers joined the fight, capturing two of the thugs and causing the rest to flee.
Police arrived and freed the two men, arresting two farmers instead.
Villagers became enraged at this. With their numbers swelling to around one thousand, they blocked the road, and forced police to release the two farmers.
According to the locals, villagers living in the vicinity of the mine repeatedly complained to the mining company, demanding they resolve the environmental pollution problem.
Local resident Ru Gang told the Epoch Times, “The Mabian River in town used to be clear, with lots of fat carp. But now there are no fish at all, because the river has been contaminated by toxic wastewater discharged by these mining companies. We can often smell a pungent odor.”
“There are more and more people suffering strange diseases. One of my relatives worked in the Wuqiong mine [in Laodong Township]. He is in his 40s. He has lost all his teeth, and his face is swollen. The local officials have covered up the pollution problem, and they don’t care whether we live or die,” Ru Gang added.
With China’s phosphate industry experiencing rapid growth in recent years, phosphate mining and processing have become a key factor in the industrial development of Mabian County, an area rich in phosphorite. However, the toxic waste generated during processing and released into the environment is causing air and water pollution. The health of locals and the environment is clearly being damaged.
The mining company temporarily suspended production after the standoff, and mediation is continuing between local residents and the mining company, Ru Gang said.
Hazardous Waste Byproduct
Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for all life forms, and is a key ingredient in fertilizer.
According to a report by Greenpeace, China is currently the world’s largest phosphate fertilizer producer. Following Hubei, Yunnan, and Guizhou provinces, Sichuan has become the country’s fourth largest phosphate ore production base.
In 2012, Greenpeace East Asia spent several months sampling and testing the phosphogypsum—the hazardous waste byproduct created when phosphate ore is processed into fertilizer—disposed by five large-scale phosphorus chemical enterprises in Sichuan. Laboratory results show that all the samples contain a variety of harmful chemical substances, and more than a third of the samples can be categorized as hazardous solid waste for their excessive fluoride levels.
The report said: “Our conclusion based on these observations and investigations in Sichuan Province, is that the pollution of China’s phosphate chemicals industry, with phosphogypsum as an outstanding example, cannot continue to be tolerated.”
Translated by John Wang. Written in English by Christine Ford.
Read the original Chinese article.