Chinese-run enterprises in the Kachin state region of Hpakant have illegally increased operations at jade mines, according to locals who warn that environmental degradation from heavy mining has worsened.
A resident in Hpakant, famed for producing some of the world’s best-quality jade, said Chinese companies backed by local authorities are mining outside of their approved sites.
“They are excavating all over their sites in Hpakant and Dalon,” said the man. “They are trying to get as much as they can now because they think that Chinese companies will not receive as much favour when the new government comes to power.”
Companies are reportedly operating machinery larger than that which they are licensed to use, as well as using excessive amounts of fertiliser. The mines are said to be operational 24 hours a day, while local authorities and mining officials turn their heads and accept bribes.
The resident said that a mine worker had told him that companies were attempting to clean out the mine during the current government’s tenure, before stricter regulations are put in place regarding extraction.
Locals said the suspension of the Myitsone Dam project last year may have incited anxiety among Chinese companies in Hpakant, who fear they could lose future contracts and are now exploiting their current sites.
The Hpakant local said the region is environmentally fragile due to excessive mining and water shortages. The nearby Uru River’s levels are dangerously low, while locals’ complaints have failed to result in any new regulations or action.
“They think they can do anything here by paying money,” says the resident. “They tell us: ‘Move your village. We need to dump our fertiliser here. We will pay you 300,000 to 400,000 kyat [$US375 to $US500] and you go and stay elsewhere for a while’ and everyone has to nod or deal with their threats. People are just their puppets here.”
There are around 200 companies backed by the government or Chinese enterprises in Hpakant. Heavy mining there has already caused significant environmental problems, with tree clearances triggering landslides.