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Jade Mining

Background

Jade is a unique ornamental stone which has been highly valued throughout Chinese history as a royal gem. While nephrite jade is mined in China, demand for jadeite jade from Burma is higher and it accordingly dominates the market. Gem-quality jade, particularly “Imperial Green” jadeite, can only be found in Burma.

Hpakant Township in northern Kachin State of Burma is famous throughout the world for its jade deposits. Jade has been mined on a small scale by local people for hundreds of years, yet the extraction of jade increased massively after the 1994 ceasefire between the Kachin Independence Army and Burma’s ruling military. Since then, numerous Chinese businesses and other the foreign companies came into Burma.
    
Today Burma’s military regime has effectively consolidated its control over the entire gems industry, including jade mining, by eliminating small and independent companies from mining and forcing all sales to go through national auctions held by official government ministries in Rangoon. Gems are now Burma’s third largest export and provide the regime an important source of foreign currency.

Last Updated on Sunday, 31 July 2011 16:08
 
Concerns

Social Concerns
More than 500,000 people from all over Burma and from China are living in Hpakant. Miners that used to have a stake in smaller operations are now daily wage earners for bigger companies and earn less than US$1 per day. They work in life-threatening conditions without protection; accidents and fatalities occur without record or compensation.

Those who cannot get a job with a company resort to being Yemase or stone collectors who sift through dumped soil and tailings. They are hunted, beaten and killed by company security, sometimes hired Burmese Army soldiers, if they are found on “company property.”

Drug abuse (including injection drug use) is notorious in jade mining areas. Heroin, raw opium, methamphetamines and various mixtures of drugs are widely available. Mining company bosses and local authorities are complicit in a thriving local trade in drugs.

Injection drug use coupled with a thriving sex industry in Hpakant has led to a generalized HIV/AIDS epidemic that has spilled over the border into China.

Impacts on Women and Children
Water pollution has led to an increase in diseases and birth defects and governmental health support is almost non-existent. Every year hundreds of people die from diarrhea after drinking bad water in Hpakant, especially women and children.

Land confiscation and forced relocation are commonplace to make way for new jade mining areas. Rural children from villages that are frequently forced to move therefore cannot attend school. As the mines swallow up forest and farm areas, women collecting drinking water, firewood, vegetables and traditional herbs in the forest and hill farms increasingly face hardships. Loss of livelihoods contributes to further migration and vulnerability to trafficking.

Environment Concerns
Improper mining practices lead to erosion, frequent landslides, floods, pollution, and other environmental damage. The main river flowing through Hpakant, the Uru River, has changed its course and is now a flowing mess of mine tailings and dumped soil which has turned a sickly yellowish-red color.

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 August 2011 14:54
 
Solutions
  • All investment in large scale mining projects in Burma must be stopped until there is a democratic government to ensure transparency and accountability, the recognition of rights and social justice in sustainable development projects  
  • Sustainable alternative mining policies must be developed by a democratic government: Small scale mining operations that have minimum impact to the environment that can be managed by communities are already used in Burma. Such projects should be further developed in the future.
  • Adequate compensation for already affected local people and destruction areas
Last Updated on Saturday, 30 July 2011 14:50
 
Photos

Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 August 2011 15:26
 

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