MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Chinese links to Burma's disastrous mining

Published by MAC on 2009-01-13

As 2008 closed, there was major explosion at a Burmese jade mine, financed by Chinese middlemen, and operated by a pro-junta so-called "peace group".

Allegedly, seven years before, the same mine sustained a much bigger disaster, when waters from the adjacent Uru River rushed into the underground workings, killing around 1,000 workers and injuring hundreds of others.

According to the regime's latest statistics, the vast majority of last year's mine-related investment in Burma derived from China.


China leads surge in foreign investment in Myanmar during first 9 months

Associated Press

5th January 2009

YANGON, Myanmar - Foreign investment in Myanmar - much of it from China - nearly doubled in the first nine months of 2008 compared to the same period last year, according to government statistics seen Monday.

Mining accounted for more than 88 percent of the total foreign investment - a record for that sector.

Investment from January to September last year jumped to $974.9 million dollars from $502.5 million in the same period the previous year, said the Ministry of National Planning and Development in its latest statistical survey.

That was the second-highest amount for this nine-month span after 2006, when Thailand built a hydroelectric plant. China accounted for $855 million of the $860.9 million invested in mining while Russia and Vietnam added $114 million in the oil and gas sector. China has signed a number of agreements with the resource-rich country to mine gems, gold and nickel.

The U.S. and European Union have imposed economic sanctions on Myanmar to pressure the military government to improve human rights and release detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Since Myanmar liberalized its investment code in late 1988, it has attracted large investments in the hydro-electric power and oil and gas sectors.


Two miners killed, seven injured on New Year eve explosion in Hpakant mine

Kachin News Group

7th January 2009

An explosion in an underground jade mine in Hpakant in Kachin state, northern Burma on December 31, 2008, at about 3 p.m. local time, killed two miners and injured seven, said the owner of the mine.

The explosion occurred in the underground jade mine in Hpakant Gyi, close to Hpakant jade mining city, which is owned by one of Burma's ethnic peace groups called Pa-O National Army (PNA) chaired by Aung Kham Hti.

According to residents of Hpakant jade mining city, the death toll could be higher than what the PNA had stated.

Local jade dealers and eyewitnesses said, they heard the sound of the explosion and saw flames leaping out of the underground jade mine.

In the year 2000, there was a big accident where the water of the Uru River rushed into the underground jade mines along the riverbanks and killed about 1,000 miners and injured hundreds. However a lid was put on the information regarding the drowning of the miners by Burmese ruling junta, said jade miners in Hpakant.

Every day, the PNA's Hpakant Gyi jade mine operates on both day and night shifts--- from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to midnight with about 300 miners including overseers, 20 power shovels and about fifty 12-wheel rock trucks, added residents of Hpakant.

During mining activities, TNT explosives, different drilling machines, power shovels, rock trucks and oxygen tanks are essential for miners, said local sources.

The PNA's Hpakant Gyi underground jade mine is run under the 'Naing-Ngan-Daw Akyoto' meaning 'mutual benefit between ruling junta and mining company or organization'. However entire jade mining activities are operated by Chinese jade businessmen linked with drug smuggling, said sources close to the PNA.

At present jade markets are cold in China and with US ban on importing gem from Burma, most small jade companies have stopped mining but only some jade companies linked with drug smuggling can continue mining, said sources close to jade companies in Hpakant.

The pro-junta and PNA Chairman Aung Kham Hti's company is included in one of these jade mining companies which can survive, added local jade company sources.

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