Gold Seekers Mine Within Caves at Myitsone Dam Site

A cave made by CPI at Myitsone dam site

Kachin locals say that the excavators received permission from a militia leader to search for gold in the caves constructed by a Chinese company.

Gold seekers have been excavating stones from caves at the site of the controversial proposed Myitsone hydropower dam project this month with the permission from a local militia leader, locals told KNG.

Lawa Yang/Gwi Htu People’s Militia Force (PMF) leader Lasan Awng Wa has reportedly allowed those looking for gold to search within man-made caves constructed by the state-owned Chinese company China Power Investment (CPI).

Locals from nearby Mali Yang and N’gan Mare villages are concerned about chemical substances used in gold extraction flowing into the Dinggu Stream, which they use for irrigation of their crops.

“Animals will be killed. Fish will be killed. It's likely if children play in the stream, their feet will be hurt by acid,” Mali Yang pastor Mung Ra told KNG.

There are three caves in the Laibau Bum area near Mali Yang, which is also home to people internally displaced by armed conflict in Kachin State. Gold seekers have been excavating stones from the cave, then grinding them down to find gold.

Village administrator Lahpai Naw Awng said that there have been 12 gold seekers registered as guests in the village since February.

“Twelve people registered to stay overnight in our village. I don’t know where they are excavating,” he explained, adding that they informed him that the PMF leader had told them to search for gold in the area. Lahpai Naw Awng said he did not ask any further questions after that.

“I just told them not to make any problems with the villagers, to cooperate with the villagers, and not to hurt animals with the substances they use,” the village administrator said.

The caves in question were constructed by CPI in the area of the Myitsone dam project, known as Mali-N’Mai Zup, in 2006.