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Free Tibet Crowd Lays into Mining

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 05/02/09; February 9, 2005.]

[Tuesday, February 08, 2005 14:04]
By Derek Moscato

VANCOUVER - Free Tibet - from the mining industry, apparently. A recently issued statement by the Office of Tibet, which represents the exiled spiritual leader Dalai Lama, is causing a stir in Asian mining circles because of some strong wording against foreign mining activities in the Chinese province.

Three projects are of particular concern, according to the "exiled Tibetan Administration". They are the Nagartse joint venture between Australia's Orchid Capital and the China Tibet Institute of Geological Survey; the Dachang Gold Mine, also a JV between Canada's Inter-Citic and Qinghai Geological Survey Institute; and a third JV, the Dachang Gold Mine, involving Continental Minerals and China Net TV Holdings.

According to the statement, "the exile administration is deeply concerned that the increased mineral extraction activities would have large adverse social and environmental impacts on the Tibetan Plateau and further beyond."

It didn't take long for ethnic media outlets in Canada to fan the flames.

"Dalai Lama wants Canadian miners out of Tibet," read the headline on the front page of last week's Asian Pacific Post, a Vancouver-based newspaper serving the city's sizable Asian population.

The message has a double-impact on Canada's left coast -- not only resonating with Asian ex-pats with nationalist axes to grind, but also British Columbia's vocal activist community, for many of whom "Free Tibet" is the ultimate call to arms.

Well-organized Vancouver activists targeted Ivanhoe's Monywa copper project in Myanmar earlier this decade; complete with some widely-seen publicity stunts at that company's annual meeting in 2001. Along similar lines, in 1997 activists taking aim at Beijing's human rights record disrupted international trade talks at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings being held in British Columbia.

More recently, they were part of a legion of pro-Tibet Canadian voices that urged Prime Minister Paul Martin to meet with the Dalai Lama last year during the spiritual leader's visit to Canada -- against the wishes of some political advisors, as well as government leaders in Beijing.

The subject of mining did not come up during discussions between the two leaders, however.

But the Tibet mining issue has been festering for a while. In a letter dated April 16, 2003, the Dalai Lama himself made the case against growing foreign "exploitation of Tibet's non-renewable resources such as gold."

"I appeal to all foreign mining companies, and their shareholders, who are thinking about working in Tibet to consider carefully about the ethical values when embarking on such a venture."

The most recent talk from the Dalai Lama's office came during the same week that Vancouver-based Continental announced its 60% interest in the Xietongmen Gold-Copper Property, which is located 240km southwest of Lhasa, Tibet. Exploration there is expected to get underway shortly.

The Dalai Lama's input seems to be a non-starter with Continental shareholders, who haven't brought up the issue on Internet stock forums.

Shares of Continental, which list on the TSX Venture Exchange, trade between C$1.30-$1.40, and have a 52-week range of $.97 to $2.25. Company investors to date have mostly shrugged their shoulders on the subject, it seems.

The Tibet story is getting plenty of play on other Internet forums, however, particular those serving Asian and Tibetan ex-pats in Europe and North America.

One poster at Tibet news site Phayul.com argued that the issue has been overblown. "Though the Asia Pacific Post helped to carry the news report on mining in Tibet, its reporting is obviously exaggerated," said the observer. "The Dalai Lama has not made any comments on the particular issue, but the report made it appear otherwise."

But other posters were more partial on the issue. "CTA (Central Tibetan Administration) should strongly state opposition to those projects and clearly state ... that those companies who exploit Tibet mineral resources of our sacred Fatherland will be nationalized when Tibet will be free."

It's the kind of talk that might scare away at least a few investors who were previously sitting on the fence.

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