Monday, September 25, 2017

134 mining blocks to expire this month

The Myanma Gems Enterprise under the Ministry of Resources and Environmental Conservation announced that a total of 134 authorised mining blocks in the country’s gemstone tracts are going to expire within this month.

76 blocks in Hpakant and Lone Khin areas will expire in March 2017. A further 110 mining blocks in Mohnyin gemstone tract, 8 in Mogok gemstone tract, 4 in Mine Shu gemstone tract and 12 in Hkamti gemstone tract will also end this month.

The ministry makes monthly announcements to update the list of expired mining blocks since June 2016, as part of the government’s efforts to tackle aggressive extraction of jade and other gemstones. The NLD-led government is keen to rein in on those mining ventures which pose a risk to the environment.

Among all the gemstone tracts in Myanmar, those in Hpakant and Lone Khin are most severely affected by the mining activities and both local communities and the environment have suffered social and environmental damages. The two areas are renowned internationally for their production of jade.

Tens of thousands of poor labourers from across Myanmar seek riches at Hpakant’s jade mines and elsewhere, many only to see their lives ruined by drug addiction. Hundreds of those jade prospectors were killed in the collapse of mines last year.

The locals also have to endure the dire consequences of the mines, which damaged the natural environment. It is widely believed that there has to be actions taken to protect and preserve the environment against those damages. The Ministry has called for tender to perform environmental reassessments of the jade-mining ventures and, at least for now, have put a halt to the jade-mining activities.

The jade-mining companies near Hpakant and Lone Khin areas have not made sufficient efforts for the preservation of the natural environment, said U Zaw Shan Lon, who is doing mining business in those areas.

Therefore, there are plans led by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation to repair the damages done to the Hpakant and Lone Khin gem areas. The Ministry also plans to carry out environmental management plans to contain and make up for the ecological damages caused by mining, officials from Myanmar Gems Enterprise told the Myanmar Times.

Myanmar Gems Enterprise, under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, has also issued monthly expirations of land plots. In June 2016 the first batch of land plots expiration was announced, with 506 plots named, in July 306 plots, in August 352 plots, in September 321 plots, in October 273 plots, November 954 plots, and in December 350 plots. The plots named have their mining permission end by the end of the month of the announcement.

Similarly, there are again expiration notices issued in 2017 with 195 plots given out in January, 96 plots in February, and 134 plots this month.

All these land plots in the gem areas will not be allowed extension beyond their termination date. The administration does not plan to issue new land plots for mining either, said U Win Htein, director general of the Department of Mines.

Translation by Zar Zar Soe and Kyaw Soe Htet