What you need to know
Taroko Gorge is one of the most well-known tourist attractions in Taiwan, but Asia Cement’s mining in the region has sparked controversies for years. As the new director of EPA recently announced that the mines should be banned by 2017, whether Asia Cement will leave Taroko Gorge or not remains a question.
Compiled and translated by Yuan-ling Liang
The new director of the Environment Protection Administration (EPA) has stated that Asia Cement must stop mining in Taroko Gorge National Park when its current permit expires next year.
The move is part of a wider ban on mining in Taiwan’s national parks.
EPA director Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) says that Taiwanese should stop focusing solely on economic development and start promoting sustainable development. Lee says that mining should be banned in national parks and mining projects should go through environmental impact assessments.
Lee’s statement has sparked some controversy across the island. Asia Cement issued a statement, saying its operation in Hualien was certified years before the “Taroko National Park Plan” was issued in 1986.
The company says, “We have been mining in the area legally for years and have also put much effort into environmental protection. We have even received numerous awards for our work.” [Quote translated]
There is also concern for the future employment of Asia Cement workers.
The company’s 25-hectare operation is understood to be the only site in Taroko National Park where mining currently takes place. The park was created in 1986.
The Ministry of Economy states that Asia Cement was certified to run its mine at Taroko in 1973. The site is part of Asia Cement’s wider 442 hectare Hualien operation. According to the company’s contract with the government, the rights to mine in the 25 hectare area expire in 2017.
“There may be controversy if mining in the remaining 417 hectare area is also banned,” Ministry of Economy officials say. “They [the company] did not do anything illegal according to the regulations, so they are guaranteed the right to continue mining in the area.” [Quote translated]
DPP legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) states that if there are labor rights involved in the case, the government should take responsibility in balancing them with environmental protection.
Pan Cheng-cheng (潘正正), researcher at the environmental group Citizens of the Earth, criticized Lee for political posturing. Pan thinks the EPA should focus more on examining the harm brought to the environment and set higher standards in environmental impact assessments.
Edited by Olivia Yang