Jade mines stepping up operations: activist

Hpakant’s jade mining companies are speeding up their work despite widespread criticism, resident say.

La Maung La Taung, leader of Kachin National Development Organisation based in Hpakant, said: “We saw that they are speeding up their work in the mines. We haven’t seen them stop their work or reduce the amount of machinery. We can still hear the explosions from Zutya. Increasing machinery means they will have all they can before the new government takes over. Natural resources will not reproduce. The way work is going, the jade will be gone soon. The jade mining company owners are mostly Chinese. The ethnic minorities here have no rights to own or use the land.”

The tragic Hpakant landslide on November 21 has brought media and political attention to the issue.

The union government investigation centred on the Kachin State government for allowing heavy machinery and dumper trucks to enter the region untaxed and unlicensed from China but the overall probe was weak, said La Maung La Taung.

He said: “We heard the government investigators came but we don’t know what they did. There is a lack of transparency. We heard that mining machineries was secretly kept on the road to Tamakhan because apparently someone alerted them before the investigators came. There are thousands of pieces of mining machineries in Hpakant.”

Last month the organisation led a protest to block roads through Seikmu, Kaday and Mazutyan villages to protest against jade exploration. The Kachin Independence Army took the leaders of the organisation into custody for over a week.

State-owned newspapers reported the state government had allowed more than 22,560 acres to be used by 627 jade-mining companies.

In Hpakant, mining became increasingly mechanised in 2007 and now a reported 60 hills and many streams have disappeared.