MAC: Mines and Communities

International System To Block Sales Of Conflict Diamonds

Published by MAC on 2006-10-13

South Asia Update

13th October 2006

As another report last week revealed defects in the international system to block sales of "conflict diamonds" (this time primarily from Cote d'Ivoire) news emerges from Burma of the increasing trade in "blood-stained" gems - commerce which international NGOs have so far largely ignored.

In this case the tables are perversely turned: it's the unlawful regime which declares the smuggling "illegal" - even though it's made deals with "rebel" groups who also use the trade to launder profits from manufacturing drugs. On the other hand, smallscale miners, desperate to scrape a living, reap at least some benefit from selling their stones into the hands of Thai and Chinese middlemen.

Chinese outfits are playing a central role in gold mining within an ASEAN-designated Heritage site in Kachin State. According to one NGO, these mines - using both mercury and cyanide - are a key factor in destroying fish and wildlife and ruining the quality of Lake Indawgyi. Of course the Burmese military is complicit in this destruction, too - although it's a signatory to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

With the recent killings of protestors against Asia Energy's Phulbari project still fresh in Bangladeshi minds, a new report reveals the unacceptable toll of the country's largest coal mine, situated in the same district and constructed by a Chinese-led consortium.

China is also making determined moves to invest in India's iron and steel industry - but only so long as the price is right.

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