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Villagers' anger at low fines

(Shanghai Daily)

09:48, December 08, 2011

Villagers in Jiangxi Province claim for decades their health has been damaged and crops killed by toxic waste from copper mines that are undeterred by low fines.

Over the past 30 years, some 60 million tons of waste water has been discharged into the Le'an river, nearby villagers say.

They say 420,000 residents who drink water from the river are currently affected by the pollution and 618 hectares of crops have died.

Jiangxi Copper Company - which has repeatedly been found responsible - each time faces a fine of 180,000 yuan (US$28,404). This is based on a 20-year-old standard, Xinhua news agency reported yesterday.

In Daicun Village, copper waste pollution has killed 187 hectares of crops, say villagers.

Human health has also been greatly affected, they say. No one has passed the army medical in 20 years, while 70 villagers have been diagnosed with cancer, claim villagers.

Locals say fines are too low to make Jiangxi Copper clean up its act. "I can't understand it," one villager said.

Cai Qingfu, deputy director of Leping City environmental protection administration, said since 2001 the company has been fined 180,000 yuan every year.

One Daicun villager compared drinking the river water to taking slow-acting poison.

Jiangxi Copper and local government say pollution is an age-old problem in the area, which has a 1,500-year mining history.

Deng Xingming, director of the provincial environmental authority, claimed local government was protecting the polluter in order to safeguard tax revenue it pays.

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