Two contractors of Chinese copper mining firm Wanbao who were kidnapped from the controversial Letpadaung copper mine project area in northwestern Myanmar have been released by community activists, the company said.
The two kidnapped, who returned to the work camp at 7:15pm on Monday, are in good shape, the company said on its website.
The Letpadaung mine in Monywa, about 100 km (60 miles) west of Mandalay, has long been a source of aggravation for the local residents, who say thousands of acres of land were illegally confiscated to make way for the mine’s expansion.
The incident is the latest in what can be seen as an anti-China sentiment that has been in Myanmar in recent years. Local residents say they were upset about the impact of mining in the area, and the destruction of a Buddhist temple in April in a mine expansion, according to a UPI report.
In November 2012, riot police raided camps set up by protesters, injuring more than 100 people, including at least 67 monks. The government later renegotiated the original contract to take 51 percent of the profit instead of the initial 4 percent, while putting aside $3 million for social projects. Myanmar Wanbao gets 30 percent of the profit and Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd (UMEHL), owned by Myanmar’s military, 19 percent. Under the original contract, UMEHL got 45 percent and Myanmar Wanbao 51 percent.
Wanbao, a subsidiary of Norinco, a big arms manufacturer, bought into the project in 2011 after Ivanhoe, a Canadian miner, had divested.
Along with their Myanmar driver, the two Chinese were taken away while conducting land survey. Some 20 villagers from Old Sete village stopped the car of the trio and took them to a primary school in the village. The Myanmar national was released a day earlier following negotiations between the local administration and the villagers.
The kidnapping saga comes as riots took place in Vietnam two weeks ago over China’s installation of an oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea.