Burma

Hpakant Mines to Close for Monsoon Season

By Kyaw Myo 23 May 2019

NAYPYITAW—Jade and gems mining will be halted in Kachin State’s Hpakant for three months during the rainy season, according to U Min Min Oo, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation.

The ministry is suspending work in the mines in the area, partly because of fatal landslides which occurred recently at jade mines in Hpakant, and partly because it plans to grant new licenses under the new mining law, the permanent secretary said at a press conference held by the ministry on Tuesday.

The Parliament is set to submit a proposal to suspend mining, and the ministry will proceed with the approval of the president, he said.

“It is likely that the suspension will begin next month,” U Min Min Oo told reporters.

The ministry is likely to measure and re-designate the mining fields under the new mining law during the rainy season, said chairman of the parliamentary committee for natural resources and environmental conservation U Soe Thura Tun.

U Soe Thura Tun, however, said that he has no information about the ministry’s plan to suspend mining for three months.

Due to the high risks and higher costs associated with operating during the rainy season, mining companies can usually only continue digging in certain places, and the suspension will not have much impact on the industry, according to Hpakant Township Lower House lawmaker U Tint Soe.

“I haven’t seen a suspension of mines [during the rainy season] due to an official announcement. If the ministry officially suspends mining, [the mining companies] will have to follow [the order],” said the lawmaker.

President U Thein Sein’s government issued an order to halt mining from May through September annually. But later, as the government of the National League for Democracy decided not to renew the licenses of jade mining companies until it completed an environmental management plan for jade mining areas in Kachin State, companies continued digging during the monsoon season. The current government has never imposed an official suspension.

On April 22, 54 employees of two mining companies were buried alive in the collapse of a lake that formed on the site of a disused mine in Kachin State’s Hpakant. Four more were killed in subsequent landslides on April 23 and April 25.

According to data from the State Mining Enterprise, 213 mining companies whose licenses have not yet expired are still working on over 1,000 jade and gem mines in the Lone Khin and Hpakant mining areas.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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