Taipei Supreme Court rules in favor of indigenous peoples in mining rights case
Taipei’s Supreme Administrative Court on Thursday revoked the Economics Ministry’s 2018 approval to extend the mining rights of Asia Cement Corporation in Hualien for another 20 years, in a ruling that dismissed the company’s appeal. cement and recognized the rights of indigenous peoples to consent to development projects in their life areas.
“Mining is a form of land use planning that typically affects indigenous peoples and their traditional cultures,” the judges said in a statement. “Lawmakers forced the government to consult and obtain the approval of indigenous peoples before expanding mineral rights. “
In 2019, a Taipei high court ruled in favor of four plaintiffs from Truku, who filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Economic Affairs, which allowed Asia Cement to continue mining in their living areas without their consent. Environmental groups had asked why the ministry rushed to renew the company’s license in less than four months.
Asia Cement has been operating Xincheng Mountain in Hualien for over six decades. She asked three times for a 20-year extension of mineral rights, the most recent in 2017, when the company’s license was due to expire in six months.
Recognition of indigenous rights
Amnesty International reacted positively to the results, demanding that Asia Cement follow the decision by suspending operations at the mine site. He also called on the government to ensure that it obtains the approval of indigenous peoples before giving the green light to any development project.
Aries Huang, an activist based in eastern Taiwan for a local environmental group Citizen of the Earth, said the court ruling “made little difference” to halt mining activities.
According to the rules of the Mining Act, the government approves the extension of mining activities “in principle”, which means that once a company applies, it can continue operations until the end of the period. authorities request the stop.
But the decision serves as a “stern warning” to the government, including the Bureau of Mines and the Ministry of Economy, Huang said. “The Bureau of Mines has been reckless in approving the extension of mining rights, and the tribunal is asking the government to carefully assess the consequences. “
Another important outcome of the ruling is that the tribunal reaffirmed the rights of indigenous peoples to decide how they want their territories to be developed, she added.
In the statement, the Supreme Court also pointed out that the four plaintiffs are all residents of the area around the mining land. The ministry’s decision is likely to “violate their right to life, body and property, as well as their right to live according to the traditional cultures of indigenous peoples”.
As expected, Asia Cement said on Friday “in accordance with regulations” that it was still allowed to continue mining operations. “The court ruling has not had a significant impact on our financial situation.”
The Ministry of Economic Affairs backed the cement plant’s decision, saying the extension request is “pending”, according to the mining law.
The ministry added that it would ask Asia Cement to submit proof of consent from indigenous tribes near the mine site before approving the 20-year extension.
Despite the continuation of mining activities, Citizen of the Earth pointed out in an article that the Truku peoples can “negotiate with Asia Cement for compensation or termination of damages based on the spirit of the Basic Law of Indigenous Peoples.”
The government “can no longer get around the problem”
The controversy surrounding the Xincheng mining site has been rife since the film was screened Beyond Beauty – Taiwan from Above in 2013 by the late director Chi Po-lin. He showed footage from a helicopter how the once-verdant mountains turned into open mining lands in a matter of years.
Indigenous activist groups have for years been under the wing of the Against Asia Cement Corporation, Give Back Truku Land, Self-Saving Committee, calling on the government to prioritize legal changes that would force companies to take responsibility. destruction of the environment.
As the Legislative Yuan convened recently, Amnesty International called on lawmakers to include the rights of indigenous peoples in the amendment of the mining law.
Huang, the activist, said the Ministry of Economic Affairs now has the option of shutting down Asia Cement’s operations simply based on their impact on the environment. It could also choose to modify the regulations of the Mining Act, which would require discussions with indigenous peoples before starting to develop a mining land.
Yet the government “can no longer get around the problem” after the court ruling, she said.
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TNL Editor: Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)
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