Officials to Test 50-Ton Stone to Dispel Rumors of Jade

By San Yamin Aung 28 February 2014

RANGOON— A 50-ton stone that was presumed to be jade in Kachin State is likely just a normal rock, but testing will be conducted to confirm its composition, according to the top government official in the state.

Kachin Chief Minister La John Ngan Sai said doubts arose after the giant stone broke into pieces when local authorities tried to move it about five days ago.

“We’re 90 percent sure it’s not jade because it cracked,” he told The Irrawaddy on Friday. “We will check technically the pieces of stone according to procedure, to be more certain, and after that it will be possible to confirm that it is not jade.”

The state minister said the broken pieces of stone were being kept at the office for the Ministry of Mines’ department of jade in Hpakant Township, and that members of the public could visit to see for themselves that there was no jade.

The stone was discovered on Feb. 9 by a small-scale miner in Hpakant Township, which is known for possessing some of the world’s best jade. Soldiers and police were deployed to guard the stone, while small-scale miners were banned from working in the area. The government banned mining in the township in 2012, but small-scale miners and hand-pickers have been operating illegally, although they have no legal claim to the jade they discover.

The township government office declined to provide updates on the status of the stone when contacted by The Irrawaddy.

The ministry’s jade department said it was confident the stone was just a rock.

“It’s not a jade stone. If it was jade, it wouldn’t crack easily like that,” an official at the ministry’s jade department told The Irrawaddy, requesting anonymity.

He said that before the stone cracked, the department’s research laboratory tested a small sample and found that it was not jade. He added that local residents also recognized that the stone was only a rock after having an opportunity to see the pieces for themselves.

In Rangoon, others who had not seen the pieces firsthand were skeptical.

“People can’t believe—even though they are saying it’s not jade—because there has been no transparency. If it is jade, they should use it [the profits] for the public,” said Ko Nyi, a member of the National League for Democracy (NLD).