MANDALAY — The government says it is investigating the possible illegal import of heavy machinery from China to work in the mines of Kachin State, following reports that jade production in Kachin State had ramped up in recent months due to uncertainty about the next government’s intentions toward the industry.
Over recent weeks, reports of a rise in the number of dump trucks seen in Hpakant have spread over social media, with locals urging the government to intervene.
On Friday, state-run newspapers reported that the import of trucks and heavy machinery through the Kan Pai Tee border checkpoint would be suspended over the course of the investigation, at the same time asserting that all vehicles hitherto imported through the border were brought in legally.
According to Tin Ye Win, the director-general of the Department of Transport, 880 dump trucks and earthmoving vehicles were legally imported through the checkpoint in recent months and permitted to drive through to the Kachin capital of Myitkyina.
In another turn, Friday’s report also claimed that the Ministry of Commerce had seized 700 illegally imported vehicles in Kachin State, but without mentioning the type of vehicles or whether they were imported to work in Hpakant’s jade mines.
Concerns over the the ramp-up of jade production have been raised in recent weeks, with villagers claiming the dumping of mine tailings is leaving a serious ecological impact in nearby villages and raising the risk of landslides and floods.
Last week, residents of five villages around Hpakant established a roadblock to stop dump trucks from taking mine waste away from the jade mine site. Some locals, claimed to be the leaders of the blockade, were detained by a group of men claiming to be members of the Kachin Independence Army on Monday, and have not been heard from since.
In late November, a deadly landslide claimed the lives of at least 114 prospectors working to find jade residue in a mine site. The government has said it will shortly announce plans to address longstanding safety concerns in the Hpakant mines.