Hpakant Protests on Hold after Agreement Signed: Officials

By Zarni Mann 20 February 2016

MANDALAY — Protests in Kachin State’s Hpakant Township over the dumping of mining waste in the area have ended after authorities and villagers negotiated an agreement, according to township officials. However, some locals said they were not aware of the apparent settlement.

Officials said that local authorities, representatives from mining companies and concerned villagers signed an agreement on Friday stipulating that the mining companies would halt the dumping of waste soil from jade mines in areas near local villages.

“The companies … will go to the valley far away from the [village] areas to dump their mining waste. And the companies and authorities will begin reservation work on the Waikhar river,” said Tin Swe Myint, an official of the Hpakant township administration office.

According to locals, the mining companies also agreed that dump trucks would only pass through the villages only at night in order to prevent accidents.

“The locals are satisfied with the results [of the negotiations] and assured [officials] that they would cease protesting. In turn, we assured them that we will work to restore the creeks and rivers in the area as soon as possible,” Tin Swe Myint added.

Yet in the Lone Khin jade mining area, local protesters said that the agreement was inked without some locals’ knowledge.

“We heard that the agreement was signed between authorities and mining companies without informing us. We’re now asking for another appointment with both parties so that they can explain the situation to us,” said Naung Latt, one of the Lone Khin protesters.

All locals knew, they said, was that the negotiations had stalled because the mining companies in the area did not agree with some of the locals’ requests.

“They said that they won’t dump waste in our area, but they couldn’t come to an agreement on the time constraints for when trucks could pass through the villages,” Naung Latt said.

Protesters said that their next appointment with local authorities and the mining companies will be in a few days, at which point they will decide if they will continue to protest.

“If they trick us, we will resume our protests,” Naung Latt added.

Protests were staged last week in three areas: Sabaw, Seikmu and Seng Taung. Protests were halted a few days later, however, when local authorities allegedly brought protesters and mining company representatives together at the negotiation table.