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Myanmar Wanbao: A new dawn for the Chinese copper miner

As Myanmar makes history by electing its first civilian president Htin Kyaw, after 50 years of military rule, we examine a story that helped shape Myanmar’s relationship with its neighbours and the world.  “A New Dawn” is an unprecedented film that comes at a historic time in Myanmar’s history.

Myanmar Wanbao was forced to stop construction in 2012 due to local opposition to the copper project. This was hugely reported on.  Another major Chinese project, the Miytsone dam had been halted in September 2010. And it seemed that the country’s new found democracy and voice would be used to push away its neighbouring country and its investment. Myanmar Wanbao and the people of Letpadaung found themselves in the eye of a geopolitical storm.

On 29th November 2012, the situation came to a head. The mine site had been barricaded for days by demonstrators and activists. Myanmar police tried to break the stranglehold and the violence that ensued caused an international outcry. The mine’s future couldn’t be more uncertain. It appeared doomed.

None other than Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was tasked with chairing an investigation commission that recommended that the mine should continue, given that it adheres to certain recommendations.  Yet, the company hard to learn the hard way, that a legal license from the government does not mean a “social license”, the approval of the people.

This short film charts how the company learnt to listen to its community, and both community and Wanbao come together to chart a new dawn together for themselves and for Myanmar. In the process they came up with a “Contribution Plan” which provides regular and predictable payments to the villagers for the lifetime of the mine.

This is the first of its kind in Myanmar and possible the first of its kind in the world. The company is also investing in electricity, clean water,  massive job creation, skill training, Could this be the future of all investments and investors eyeing Myanmar’s rich resources?

This is ultimately a story of hope and the humbling power of dialogue based on mutual respect. With unparalleled access to both the community and to the Chinese company management, the film offers a glimpse of what happens when two conflicting groups come together.