YANGON — Recent fighting between ethnic rebels and government troops in Kachin State’s Hpakant Township has raised security concerns, with jade mining operations set to resume in the area next month.
Large-scale mining in the jade-rich hills of Hpakant was suspended in 2012, shortly after a 17-year-old ceasefire broke down and conflict erupted between the Myanmar Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). For the past two years, only opportunists mining illegally on a small-scale have operated there.
But officials at the Ministry of Mines last month declared that operations would resume on Sept. 1, and companies with licenses to mine in the area began preparing to resume work.
However, fighting broke out last week, displacing about 200 civilians, when government troops entered a rebel-controlled ruby mining area in Hpakant, according to local leaders.
The violence has raised concerns about security for the companies preparing to restart mining, said Than Naing Oo, a representative of the Myanmar Thura jade-mining company.
“Though we haven’t yet resumed work in the mines, some private mining companies are setting up their equipment there. We want to resume work peacefully.”
Hla San, a National League for Democracy member based in Hpakant town, said that since there was no ceasefire agreement between the government and the Kachin Independence Organization, the KIA’s political wing, the situation was still tense.
“If the government army and the KIA have an agreement for peace, that area will be OK to resume, he said, adding that clashes in area had ceased since last week, and had resulted from a “misunderstanding.”
A senior official at the state-owned Myanmar Gems Enterprise, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that mining was set to resume, regardless of the recent fighting.
“Since the announcement from the Ministry of Mines in July, a director from the ministry has been managing the resumption of work. As far as I know, there is no problem for mining companies due to recent clashes,” the official said.
“The resumption date will not be changed at the moment. We will work as formerly announced.”
Source: THE IRRAWADDY