Hpakant Protesters Yet to Reach Agreement With Authorities Over Dumping of Mining Waste

By Nang Seng Nom 17 February 2016

RANGOON — Negotiations between authorities and locals in Kachin State’s Hpakant Township failed to end in an agreement on Wednesday after villagers called for an end to the dumping of mining waste in the area.

Hpakant Township residents have been protesting since February 13 against the continued dumping of waste soil from jade mines. They issued a set of demands to local authorities and mining companies operating in the jade-rich region and created roadblocks to stop trucks from depositing more waste, but have suspended their activities during the negotiation period. Authorities agreed to a dialogue with the protesters on Monday, who came from three villages—Lone Khin, Seng Taung and Sabaw.

“We demand that the creek [in the area] be dredged and some of the waste soil pile removed. If it is not done, it will collapse in the rainy season and block the creek, burying the old Seng Taung Village,” Zaw Shan, one of the locals who took part in the negotiations, told The Irrawaddy.

He said authorities are inspecting the waste soil piles, which are so high that they are at risk of collapsing. Despite the construction of a log wall to prevent soil waste from falling into the creek, Zaw Shan explained that the structure is not strong enough to save the waterway if a landslide occurs.

“[On Monday] I heard authorities telling the companies not to use their trucks in the area until an agreement has been reached,” said La Htaw, a local resident.

Hpakant Township saw at least six landslides in 2015 including one incident in November that claimed the lives of more than 100 local prospectors at the site of a jade mine. Locals also claim that dump trucks have caused traffic accidents in the area, killing as many as 20 people, while the irresponsible dumping of waste soil has blocked waterways.

Translated by Thet Ko Ko.