China said on Wednesday it will continue to talk to Myanmar about a controversial stalled dam project, after Myanmar’s new energy minister cast doubt over the scheme. Valued at $3.6 billion, the Myitsone dam project in the north of the former Burma has been a sticking point between the two countries since the previous military-backed government suspended work in 2011.
Reuters reported in April that officials in China and Myanmar were discussing alternative options that would allow Myanmar to scrap the massive project amid environmental concerns.
Big hydropower dams are not a priority in Myanmar’s strategy to tackle chronic power shortages, Energy Minister Win Khaing told Reuters on Tuesday.
Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China’s position on the Myitsone dam had not changed, which was that China had always upheld deepening cooperation with Myanmar on a mutually beneficial basis.
“The Myitsone hydropower station is a commercial cooperation project both sides have already agreed upon, and has already been through a complete approval process,” Hua told a daily news briefing.
“We will continue to maintain communication with the Myanmar side and proactively and appropriately handle the problems or difficulties which arise during cooperation on the project, to allow relevant cooperation to continue to develop healthily and stably,” she added.
The proposed dam, on the upper reaches of the Ayeyarwady river in Kachin state, would have sent most of its power across the border to China’s Yunnan province, which now has an oversupply of electricity as it switches to less energy-intensive industries amid an economic slowdown.
A government panel set up in August 2016 was still reviewing the dam, Myanmar’s energy minister said, adding the government was in dialogue with the Chinese operator, State Power Investment Corp subsidiary Yunnan International Power Investment.