Jade Companies Threaten to Sue Trespassing Prospectors

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 9 September 2016

RANGOON—Jade mining companies in upper Burma have threatened to sue jade prospectors taking small stones from dumping areas, in an announcement made by Sagaing Division jade operators in a state-run newspaper on Friday.

Newspaper Myanmar Ahlin said that seven licensed jade mining companies operating in Nan Si Pon jade region in Hkamti Township, Sagaing Division have released a joint notice, saying they possess full-term jade mining licenses from the Ministry of Mines which includes residual jade in the designated dumping areas.

The notice warns prospectors to stop illegally entering dumping areas in search of residual jade within seven days of Sept. 7, adding that legal action will be taken against violators.

Khine Nan Shwe, Aung Htee Phyu, Zabu Thiri, Htet Yi Lin, Myauk Kyon Thu Mama, Min Htet Oo and Lin In Ar companies posted the notice in the newspaper.

U Aung Thein, secretary of the Mandalay Gems Traders Association, said many hand pickers have entered jade mines illegally in Sagaing Division and Kachin State to search for small stones in waste dumps.

“There is less security in those areas,” he said. “I have heard that people are hand-picking in big groups without approval from the mine owners, causing considerable trouble. That’s why they agreed to this announcement.”

According to the Myanmar Gems Enterprise, under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, there are warning signs posted by the ministry to deter prospectors from entering jade mines illegally.

“By law, nobody can enter someone’s boundaries without approval, so if jade mining companies have not given hand-pickers permission, they cannot,” said U Min Thu, director of Myanmar Gems Enterprise.

“Companies have given notice to these people before taking this most recent action,” he said.

Mining companies have complained to local authorities and ministry officials about this problem before. Police and legal experts suggested giving prior notice before taking action against them. “That’s why jade companies have made this announcement public,” U Min Thu said.

More than 5,000 jade mines in Sagaing division and more than than 6,000 mines in Kachin State continue to operate as government licenses expire across the country. U Min Thu said these numbers are falling as licenses cease to be valid.

Jade mining in Kachin State was suspended in 2012 after the breakdown of a 17-year ceasefire between the government and the Kachin Independence Army. After government approval, mining operations continued, halting temporarily in early 2015 when renewed fighting broke out before a more widespread resumption of armed conflict in March of last year.

The new NLD government decided not to renew jade mining licenses, prompting 310 companies to cease operations as of last month, as listed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation.

The government has announced that all remaining jade mining licenses will expire in 2018, and licenses will only be considered for renewal after the completion of an environmental management plan for jade mining areas of Kachin State.