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Article

Myanmar: Lack of regulation in jade industry exposes miners to deadly landslides

"Danger and desperation in Myanmar’s jade mines", 30 November 2020

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Myanmar’s deadliest mining accident in living memory killed at least 175 people near Hpakant town on 2 July. [...]

The environment minister, Ohn Win, blamed the miners, who are often desperate, impoverished internal migrants, for the disaster that he said was caused by their “greed”. Others pointed out that the civilian government has failed to regulate the jade industry effectively during its five years in power. Doing so would mean tackling the military’s deep involvement in the jade trade.

The government’s inability or unwillingness to control the industry includes a failure to introduce and enforce environmental regulations. In 2017, it commissioned a new environmental management plan to rein in the mining sector, but that still hasn’t been implemented.

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Demand from China fuels Myanmar’s jade industry, which takes the form of a murky web of illegal Chinese-funded companies whose exports are facilitated by corrupt links to Myanmar’s military and its adversaries in the Kachin Independence Army.

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Dietz said the Chinese government could take “smuggling, border control and anti-money laundering more seriously,” including by ensuring that “digital payments systems like WeChat Wallet and AliPay are not used by jade smugglers”. 

“China’s immediate proximity and sheer economic size also allows Chinese companies to capitalise on economic activity, both legal and illicit, along the border, with other nations’ companies largely shut-out of the area.” Dietz said China should use its influence in Myanmar’s peace process to encourage resource-sharing agreements that would see local Kachin communities benefit from the jade industry.

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