Farmers end Sino Gold blockade

The Chinese farmers who had forced Sino Gold Mining Ltd to halt operations at its White Mountain mine in Jilin province in a dispute over alleged water contamination stopped blocking road access yesterday, local police said.

But the gold mine’s operation will remain suspended until the dispute between the mine and nearby villagers is settled, said a local official from the information office of Baishan.

“There was no drastic conflict between the farmers and the mine owners,” a policeman in Baishan, surnamed Liu, said.

“The farmers have returned home peacefully.”

Sino Gold, which owns 95 percent of the gold mine, said yesterday that about 20 farmers had blocked road access to the White Mountain mine, and were demanding compensation that the company felt was unjustified.

“The mine’s main access road has been blocked by a small group of some 20 farmers who are seeking compensation on the basis that water discharged from the underground mine is causing them concern,” said the announcement on Sino Gold’s website yesterday morning.

“The farmers are from a village that is located 3.5 km from the mine. The farmers, who represent an extremely small portion of the local community, get their water from underground wells. A creek which runs by their village is the contentious water source.”

Sino Gold also said the mine has implemented an extensive water-monitoring program and recent independent testing of the water in the creek has refuted the farmers’ allegations.

“The local government has paid great attention to this incident and taken quick and efficient measures to help solve the dispute,” Zhang Hongzhi, deputy director of Baishan Information Office, said.

“We must ensure the health of local people as well as the normal operation of the mine.”

The related authorities are working with the mine to examine the water quality and negotiate with the villagers.

A press conference will be held as soon as agreement is reached between the two parties, he said.

Sino Gold officials said they are working with the relevant authorities to resolve the situation and is optimistic full gold production will resume shortly.

The White Mountain mine started commercial gold production in January 2009. Upon reaching designed production rates, it will produce an average of 65,000 ounces of gold annually. Sino Gold is the leading international gold exploration and mining company in China and is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange and the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong.

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