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Excessive jade mining threatens Myanmar town

Publication Date : 07-08-2013


Known as Myanmar's jade capital, Hpakant in northern Kachin State could disappear within 30 years due to excess jade mining, locals said.

Hla Sai, an MP from the National League for Democracy, has been living in Hpakant for 40 years and is indignant about the unsustainable mining practices going on in the area.

"Here, a mountain will disappear within two months. Over 50 or 60 mountains have already disappeared. There are only around 10 mountains left for jade mining. The whole Kachin State's [economy] depends on jade. The whole state will lose its balance when the jades vanish," he said.

He blamed military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings and local entrepreneurs for lacking transparency in the jade mining and called for the government not to neglect the local people in Hpakant.

Yaw Gyi, who lives beside Uru Stream in Phakant's Myoma ward, said his house still gets inundated from floods even though he has lifted it at least 12 feet high from the ground. He blames the mining.

"The companies have also been dumping soil on the riverbanks. Rivers and streams have become extinct. We're suffering from natural disasters," said Gandhi, a social activist from Hpakant.

Vayama, chairman of Hpakant Township Sangha Association, also expressed his worries that when the jade runs out Hpakant will disappear along with the machines being used to exploit its natural resources. All that will be left is a ghost town.

"Compared to old days, jade will become rarer. In the future, [Hpakant] will become like Mogok. The gems will become rarer and the people will move away. I don't like the use of big machineries. Natural resources should be taken out bit by bit. I want the government to regulate this," said Vayama.

Jade has been mined manually in Hpakant area for centuries. Industrial scale mining only began more recently, and the use of dynamite and heavy machinery to extract the green stone only became widespread when the government signed ceasefire agreement with the Kachin Independence Army in 1994.

"There aren't any forests left. The weather changed significantly after 1997. Uncountable numbers of villages and mountains have disappeared before our eyes. There are no limits in the use of explosives in removing the mountains," said Kavisara, secretary of Hpakant Township Sangha Association.

Many locals of the town began to notice climatic changes as a result of the consistent degradation of the surrounding natural environment by mining companies. Much of the damage has occurred since 2005 when over 500 companies started using heavy machinery to extract greater quantities of jade stone.

Over 50 mountains and natural streams have vanished in the Hpakant area due to excessive jade mining and the area continues to suffer natural disasters including floods and higher temperatures.


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