MAC: Mines and Communities

Caterpillar, Volvo, Komatsu linked to mining abuses in Myanmar

Published by MAC on 2018-06-21
Source: Press release, Thompson Reuters

The report mentioned in the articles below can be downloaded at -

See previous article at: Myanmar's military elite profit from Jade

Swedwatch report highlights human rights risks in sale of mining equipment to Myanmar

Swedwatch press release

20 June 2018

Irresponsible jade extraction has led to extensive human suffering and environmental degradation in Myanmar’s conflict-affected Kachin state. The use of heavy mining equipment, manufactured by companies such as Caterpillar, Komatsu and Volvo Construction Equipment, has enabled extraction to take place at an unprecedented speed. A Swedwatch report finds that the companies rely on insufficient human rights safeguards regarding risks associated with the use of their equipment.

Since the early 2000s, jade extraction has levelled mountains and deforested vast areas of intact forests in the state of Kachin, Myanmar. The mining comes with severe adverse impacts for local residents; seemingly thousands have lost their access to land and livelihoods, and hundreds allegedly die every year in landslides and flooding caused by negligent jade mining practices. The jade trade is also intimately linked to an ongoing armed conflict which has marred Kachin for almost 60 years.

The level of mining witnessed in Myanmar over recent decades would have been impossible without the use of foreign heavy mining equipment, sold by local distributors, dealerships, or smugglers. Many of the customers are reported to have close links to the Myanmar military - one of the parties in the armed conflict in Kachin - and to the former military junta which repressed the country for decades. But although the problematic jade extraction is enabled by use of machines from companies such as Caterpillar, Komatsu and Volvo Construction Equipment, the three companies are not able to demonstrate adequate awareness of how their products are used, or of the impacts they leave behind.

“The calamitous human rights impacts linked to jade extraction in Myanmar are well-known. Nevertheless, Swedwatch’s research indicates that mining equipment companies fail to address risks associated with the irresponsible use of their products in this high-risk environment. Companies should step up their efforts and strengthen their adherence to human rights standards in their provider-customer relationships”, says Therese Sjöström, author of the report.

According to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), companies have a responsibility to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts linked to their products - even when the impact is caused by a third party, such as a customer. The UNGPs also stipulate that companies should use their leverage towards business partners, for example during sales of products, to mitigate the risk that their products will be used in a way that causes harm. Swedwatch’s report shows that the companies are poorly aligned with the UNGPs in this regard.

“Myanmar is a high-risk market from a human rights perspective, which must be recognized in any business activity in the country. Foreign companies that sell products in Myanmar should take measures to prevent that the rights and safety of the local population are negatively impacted from the use of their products, and that local rights holders are given the opportunity to raise their concerns without fear of reprisals”, says Per Söderberg, policy advisor at the Church of Sweden.

The report Overlooked and undermined - Communities affected by jade mining operations in Myanmar and the responsibilities of companies providing machinery has been developed with the support of the Church of Sweden who also participated in developing its recommendations.

For more information please contact: Therese Sjöström, researcher, Swedwatch +46 (0)8 525 203 81

Caterpillar, Volvo, Komatsu linked to mining abuses in Myanmar: report

Jared Ferrie

Thomson Reuters Foundation -

20 June 2018

PHNOM PENH - Caterpillar, Volvo and Komatsu contribute to abuses in Myanmar by selling machinery used by domestic mining companies implicated in land expropriation, environmental destruction and armed conflict, according to a report published on Wednesday.

The three companies “appear to be the dominant brands” represented in the Hpakant jade mines in northern Myanmar’s Kachin state, according to Swedwatch, a Stockhom-based charity.

The research suggested thousands of people had lost their land in the past 15 years, while hundreds may have died each year in landslides and flooding linked to the mines.

“Since the early 2000s, the dramatically increased use of heavy machinery in Myanmar has enabled the extraction of minerals at an unprecedented speed,” said Swedwatch.

Myanmar is a major gemstone producer and the civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi pledged to tighten controls after a landslide in a jade mine killed more than 100 people in 2015 in Kachin state.

But mining continues apace, and at least 14 people were killed when a slag heap collapsed last month.

Interviewees from Hpakant and the surrounding area told Swedwatch that, as mining ramped up, their land had been illegally confiscated, or they had been pressured to sell.

Hundreds of families lost their farmland, while water sources have become polluted, according to the report.

Volvo, a Swedish company, told Swedwatch it had probed its Myanmar dealer in relation to corruption.

“It is our opinion that we do not in any way contribute to any human rights abuses in Myanmar, which is suggested in Swedwatch’s conclusions,” spokesman Joakim Kenndal told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We cannot as a company secure that all our products on a worldwide basis, during their entire life cycle and through a multitude of users, do not end up in situations where there could be a risk for human rights abuses.”

Caterpillar, a United States company that is the largest machinery brand globally, said it had no further comment other than that included in Swedwatch’s report.

Caterpillar’s response to Swedwatch cited its code of conduct, which pledges to “promote the health, welfare and economic stability of communities”, while conducting business “in a manner that promotes human rights”.

A spokesman for the company did not respond to questions about how Caterpillar’s sales of mining equipment in Myanmar may contravene its code of conduct.

Komatsu declined to answer questions and cited comments included in the report. The Japanese company told Swedwatch it had considered conducting a rights assessment for Myanmar, but had not yet done so.

Komatsu said it refrains from further sales to companies responsible for “adverse human rights impacts,” but it had not received such reports from Myanmar.

Myanmar’s jade production was worth $31 billion in 2014, and up to $122 billion over the previous decade, according to human rights charity Global Witness.

Swedwatch said thousands of machines manufactured by the companies are likely to be active in Hpakant, a flashpoint for fighting between government forces and the Kachin Independence Army.

The conflict has uprooted more than 100,000 people from their homes since 2011, Swedwatch said.

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