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Hpakant’s jade foragers rally for mining rights

Dozens of foragers rally for mining rights in Hpakant, Kachin State, on 20 October 2016. (PHOTO: DVB)

Foragers in the jade mining town of Hpakant on Thursday staged a protest demanding amendments to the revised Myanmar Gemstones Law.

The protestors issued a list of six points, including a demand to permit day-labourers to forage freely through mounds of soil dumped by mining companies. They also called for a suspension in operations by medium to large mining enterprises in the area, but to allow small-scale mining operations to continue; and they urged authorities to permit small-time miners and foragers to be able to freely carry and trade in jade stones.

“Our demands include equal rights for small-scale miners and to allow foragers the freedom to search for stones in dump sites,” said Saw Maung Than, a participant at the rally in the central Kachin State town.

Articles 41 and 42 of the revised Myanmar Gemstones Law provide punitive measures, including one- to seven-year jail terms, for anyone convicted of illegal possession, appraisal, trade or transportation in the precious stones.

Kachin State Minister for Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation Hla Aung said the revised Gemstones Law is irrelevant to this situation and to the livelihoods of local miners in Hpakant.

“At this moment, we are unable to take any action as the [latest amendment] to the law has not yet been approved. We are currently listening to public opinion,” said Hla Aung.

Read more:

210-ton slab of jade unearthed in Hpakant, 14 October 2016; DVB