Min­ing com­pa­nies must re­pair en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age: of­fi­cial

The Myanmar Times - - Business - CHAN MYA HTWE chan­myahtwe@mm­times.com – Trans­la­tion by Khant Lin Oo

MORE than 1000 jade min­ing com­pa­nies will be forced by law to clean up their sites in Hpakant and Lone Khin min­ing ar­eas in Kachin State once their per­mits have ex­pired, the gov­ern­ment says.

U Win Htein, di­rec­tor gen­eral of the Depart­ment of Mines, un­der the Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Resources and En­vi­ron­men­tal Con­ser­va­tion, told The Myan­mar Times on Au­gust 2 that the gov­ern­ment would en­force an ex­ist­ing law re­quir­ing com­pa­nies to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment and re­pair any dam­age in­flicted by their oper­a­tions.

The new min­istry, which is pri­ori­tis­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal restora­tion, also plans to put a Nat­u­ral En­vi­ron­ment Man­age­ment Plan out to ten­der.

The Hpakant and Lone Khin zones, the heart of the coun­try’s jade min­ing coun­try, are scarred and dis­fig­ured by swathes of tree­less, grass­less tail­ings and slagheaps that have killed hun­dreds of itin­er­ant work­ers in land­slips.

The Myan­mar Gem­stones Law re­quires min­ing com­pa­nies to re­pair the en­vi­ron­ment through landscaping and other meth­ods to the sat­is­fac­tion of the min­istry.

The pro­vi­sion is al­ready in­cluded in the pro­ce­dures for grant­ing li­cences, U Win Htein said.

“We will send them let­ters to make sure com­pa­nies know to make the site safe. They can’t just leave [when their per­mit ex­pires]. They have to stay un­til the min­ing depart­ment has in­spected the site.”

Last week the min­istry said it would not re­new min­ing per­mits for jade and gems when they ex­pire and would only con­sider is­su­ing new per­mits once by-laws to the Myan­mar Gem­stones Law have been passed.

Lo­cal res­i­dents wel­comed the new ap­proach to en­force­ment. “The com­pa­nies should be aware of the reg­u­la­tions, but most do not pay at­ten­tion to the details,” said Hpakant Gems and Jewellery En­trepreneurs As­so­ci­a­tion deputy chair U Zaw Shan Lone.

“No com­pany has ever re­paired the en­vi­ron­ment of their site once their per­mit ex­pires. We have not heard that com­pa­nies are do­ing any­thing to con­serve the en­vi­ron­ment,” he said.

Hpakant res­i­dent U Kyaw Myint said the gov­ern­ment should go fur­ther, sus­pend­ing ex­ist­ing li­cences un­til the min­ing com­pa­nies take steps to re­store the en­vi­ron­ment.

“Peo­ple die when they fall into big holes the com­pa­nies have dug. The holes fill up with wa­ter, and the wa­ter leaks out. Some roads are im­pass­able. There are no trees. There’s no grass,” he said.

There are 1002 work­sites whose per­mits are about to ex­pire in Hpakant and Lone Khin, out of 7368 pri­vate work­sites per­mit­ted by pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment.

There are also 302 jade work­sites wholly or par­tially oper­ated by the gov­ern­ment. U Win Htein could not say when the per­mits for the re­main­ing 6000 or so work­sites would ex­pire.

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