The chief minister of northwestern Myanmar’s Sagaing region on Wednesday ordered the temporary shutdown of two companies found to be illegally mining for jade on state forest property, a regional government spokesman said.
The Lin Htet Zaw and Jade Gold companies had been illegally mining for jade on property under the control of the Forestry Department in Indaw township, Katha district.
Though Myanmar’s Ministry of Mines had issued the companies operating permits under the former government, the firms had failed to obtain permission from the township’s Forestry Department, said Than Htay, spokesman for Sagaing Chief Minister Myint Naing.
“While Sagaing region’s chief minister was inspecting the jade mines, he noticed that the companies didn’t follow rules and regulations because they were working on more acres than they were permitted to work on and didn’t follow the rules for disposing of mining waste,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service. “That’s why he ordered these companies to stop their mining operations.”
In May, the Forestry Department sued the companies in Indaw township court and fined them 5,000 kyats (U.S. $4) each for conducting illegal mining operations, according to a Forestry Department officer who declined to be named.
The roughly 10 mining companies that have been doing business in Indaw township since 1990 have now all stopped operating until the new government that came to power in April issues new mining licenses.
However, Myanmar’s government in July said it would not renew existing jade mining licenses until environmental impact assessments have been completed, the online journal The Irrawaddy reported.
Hundreds of licenses expired at the end of July, and hundreds of others will expire in 2018, the report said.
Rights groups and local residents have protested against mining companies in recent months to get them to improve the safety of excavation areas in light of a series of deadly landslides caused by collapsing waste heaps.
They have also criticized the companies for the detrimental social and environmental impacts of their activities in the largely unregulated industry.
Reported by Kyaw Thu for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.