RANGOON — Two jade mining companies in Kachin State’s Hpakant Township have suspended operations after they were hit by arson attacks on Sunday night.
The two companies, Yadanar Moe Myay Co. Ltd. and Lin Htet Aung Co. Ltd., both operate in Hmaw Si Sar village in the town of Lone Khin, said village administrator Lama Tu Ja.
“About eight people entered the company compound by motorbike around 8pm on Sunday. They then asked people to stand to one side, at which point they lit and threw hand-made bombs wrapped in tape,” Lama Tu Ja told The Irrawaddy of the Yanadar Moe Myay attack.
Machinery was damaged during the attack, and local media reported that some employee housing was destroyed in a fiery explosion.
The assailants carried out a similar attack on Lin Htet Aung Co. Ltd.
Reacting to the explosion, a Yadanar Moe Myay official arrived at the company’s compound, but the assailants pulled him from his car and “threw a bomb into it, totally destroying it,” Lama Tu Ja said.
The attacks forced more than 200 workers from the two companies to stay overnight in Tharyargon and Ah Hmike Pon villages, according to village administrators.
Military officials are still investigating the explosion sites, said Maung Maung, an official at a jade mining company. They do not yet know who was responsible for the attacks.
In the aftermath of the attacks, jade prospectors sifted through debris and waste Monday morning in search of the precious stones. While prospectors are normally prohibited from entering mining sites jointly operated by private companies and the government, as of April, and in response to prospectors’ demands, they can enter mines and search for stones after companies close at 5pm.
The Hpakant region was rocked by five bomb attacks a week earlier, on May 8: on a bridge, on the Su Htoo Pan Jade Mining Co. Ltd. and near military and police outposts. One civilian injury was reported.
Locals in Hpakant frequently stage demonstrations to protest against jade mining companies’ exploitation of the gem and their lack of environmental and worker safeguards. Locals also question the transparency that seems largely absent from the lucrative enterprise.
According to a report in 2015 from the Ministry of Mines, which was subsumed into the Ministry of Resources and Environmental Conservation in a restructuring this year, 627 companies operate 7,714 mines, and another 230 jointly operate 311 mines with the government, in Hpakant.