SHORTCOMINGS in following safety regulations by both mining companies and migrant squatters pose challenges to local authorities in preventing future landslides around jade mines in Kachin State.
To prevent landslides, local authorities have suggested that migrant miners squatting in at-risk areas relocate to safer areas and that mining companies dump their waste soil in accordance with technical safety rules, said U Tin Swe Myint, the head of the Hpakant Township Administration Office, to The Global New Light of Myanmar over the phone.
“We issued an order to evict the squatters. We erected warning signboards in the at-risk areas, but they have not fully cooperated with us,” he said.
“Meanwhile, mining companies are dumping waste soil day and night. But they do not follow our suggestions for safe dumping from a technical point of view,” he added.
When miners began using heavy machinery to extract jade from mines in Myanmar in 2005, migrant workers across the country flowed into the area to scavenge small jade stones from discarded soil. There are currently around 200,000 squatters in Hpakant Township.
Following the deadly landslides, the authorities relocated 108 migrant miners living in at-risk areas to safety sites about 3,000 feet away from the nearest mounds of dump soil.
Since the beginning of Hpakant’s jade business boom, migrant miners have formed their own villages.
Among 120 villages in the township, only 54 are official villages, according to inspection teams. The rest are unofficial squatter villages.
In an interview with Myanmar News Agency, U Aung Nyunt Thein, the managing director of the Myanma Gems Enterprise under the Ministry of Mines, said those who received official permits for mining are obliged to follow the rules of the Myanmar Gemstone Law for their mining, keeping, transportation and selling of gems stones.
According to data collected up to 30 November 2015, 627 mining companies have been allowed to mine on 7,714 plots, while another 231 companies are mining through a win-win business system on 311 plots. Mining areas constitute a total area of more than 22,558 acres in the township. As of 2000, the government has practiced a production-sharing system with mining companies, collecting 25 per cent of the incomes from the sales, apart from tax.
Companies must submit environmental and health impact assessments to the Ministry of Mines when they are granted permits for mining, and the ministry has been supervising and monitoring whether they follow these procedures or not, said U Aung Nyunt Thein.
Maung Pho Zaw (Kalay) also contributed to this story.