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Mining disasters continue in Myanmar despite regulations


Updated: July 4, 2020 2:33:42 pm

Mining disasters continue in Myanmar despite regulations At least 160 jade miners died in a mudslide attributable to heavy rains in northern Myanmar in Hpakant, Kachin state on Thursday.(Deutsche Welle)
At least 160 jade miners died in a mudslide attributable to heavy rains in northern Myanmar in Hpakant, Kachin state on Thursday.

The Myanmar Fire Services Department concerned within the rescue operation wrote on its Facebook web page that the miners had been smothered by a wave of mud.

The wet season lasts for 4 months in Kachin state, and landslides are quite common throughout this time interval.

“We can say at least 100 dead bodies were found by 2pm today,” Shwe Thein, regional chairman of the ruling National League for Democracy Party (NLD), instructed DW. “This kind of landslide happens at least 10 times a year in the Hpakant area alone. This is also happening in other areas too. Many people die.”

In April 2019, 50 freelance miners have been killed after a mine collapsed, and 120 have been killed in a landslide in 2015.

Hpakant-Lonkin in Kachin state is the most important and most well-known jade producing space, the place many miners work underneath hazardous circumstances. Most work with no contract as day by day wage laborers and with no accessible healthcare. Additionally, scavengers – largely migrants from different states – work and stay on the base of the mounds of earth close to the mines.

“Although there are regulations on the mining of jade in the area, no laws are enforced and there are no follow-ups. Many of the mining companies do not follow the guidelines,” stated Shwe Thein.

Mining laws

Weak legal guidelines and the federal government’s lack of ability to manage mining firms have led to common life-threatening incidents. After coming to energy 5 years in the past, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD authorities pledged to reform the sector.

However, it has been unable to implement many much-needed reforms. In 2016, the federal government stopped issuing licenses for 2 years. But the Gemstone Law, which was handed after the federal government resumed issuing licenses and was meant to curb corruption within the trade, has not been enforced.

“The longer the government waits to introduce rigorous reforms of the jade sector, the more lives will be lost. This was an entirely preventable tragedy that should serve as an urgent wake-up call for the government,” stated Paul Donowitz, a marketing campaign chief at Global Witness, a global human rights and anti-corruption group.

The authorities ought to instantly droop large-scale, unlawful and harmful mining in Hpakant and guarantee firms that interact in these practices are now not capable of function, Donowitz instructed DW.

More than 24 hours after the tragic incident, Suu Kyi supplied her condolences to the grieving households and blamed the tragedy on joblessness whereas additionally mentioning the army’s involvement within the rescue operation.

Who owns jade and the way is it bought?

Over 90% of the world’s jade is mined in Myanmar. The most dear jade on this planet is discovered within the nation’s Kachin Hills. The jade trade is value greater than $30 billion (€26.7 billion), in response to Global Witness. That determine quantities to greater than half the nation’s GDP.

The Kachin Hills, the first jade mining area in Kachin state, are regulated by the Myanmar army, also referred to as the Tatmadaw. For a long time, locals didn’t even know who owned the mines.

Myanmar joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in 2014 – a world customary for the great governance of oil, fuel and mineral sources primarily based in Norway. The EITI requires that members disclose their revenues from extracted pure sources.

Myanmar submitted its studies with the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI), observing that these disclosures have been extraordinarily restricted in scope and accuracy.

Research commissioned by the Myanmar EITI in 2016 estimated that 60-80% of gem stones produced within the nation weren’t declared, and due to this fact bypassed the formal system.

“Nearly half of the jade and gemstone company data shared from these reports was missing, incomplete, or irreconcilable with government data,” the EITI said in a report printed in February.

The creation of the Beneficial Ownership Task Force, an effort to disclose the possession of the extractive firms, has been hailed as a constructive step ahead. “The register signals a strong commitment by the Myanmar government to advance the agenda of ownership transparency, in line with the EITI standard,” stated EITI government director Mark Robinson.

The possession knowledge reveals that many jade firms are owned by army households or ex-military officers. The Tatmadaw additionally holds official stakes within the jade trade by means of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited and the Myanmar Economic Corporation.

The Chinese connection and jade

Jade is bought inside the nation in giant gem emporiums within the capital Naypyidaw, and arranged by MGE, a state-owned firm liable for regulating the sale of jade and gem stones by means of three way partnership agreements with personal firms. At these emporiums, the jade is auctioned and whoever wins the bid has to pay for it inside 90 days. However, the cash by no means turns into authorities income.

Myanmar earned over €400 million in gross sales on the jade and gems emporium in March 2019. Recorded gross sales on the different emporium, held in September, exceed €500 million, which is way decrease than gem watchdog’s estimate.

According to the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI), as much as two thirds of jade manufacturing will not be subjected to tax. The most dear jade is usually smuggled to China by means of the porous border of Kachin state and exempt from any taxation. Online gross sales have additionally made 80% of purchases tax-free, in response to native jade sellers.

“Commercial jade is only produced in Myanmar. Most of the buyers are Chinese people from different parts of the world because they believe in its spiritual powers,” Myanmar Gems and Jewelry Entrepreneurs Association chairman Than Win instructed DW. He additionally chairs the board of the Mahar Aung Myay jade market – the most important jade market in Myanmar.

“The Chinese buyers come here and buy the jade and the Myanmar traders go to the gem expos in China to sell it every year,” he stated.

Uncut jade is usually smuggled to China by means of the porous border and bought in Ruili, a metropolis in Yunnan province on China’s border. The metropolis is thought by jade merchants for its Yangyanghao Taobao Raw Jade Trade Market, co-organized by the Chinese authorities and Taobao – the nation’s largest e-commerce platform. It is the one market that provides on-line auctions and trades in uncooked jade by means of stay streams.

Jade mining can also be a supply of resentment amongst locals and a supply of battle in Kachin, the place locals consider that they don’t seem to be benefiting from the native sources and reside underneath poor circumstances. There can also be an ongoing rift between ethnic militias and the army and management over jade sources is a strategic precedence for either side within the battle.

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