Residents of northern Kachin State are concerned they will lose their ancestral land after the government gave a Singapore-based mining company the green light to start a feasibility study in one of the most remote and pristine regions of Burma.
Fortuna Metals Company Ltd. is conducting a feasibility study to mine for gold and other precious metals on about 300,000 acres of land in Hkawnglanghpu (or Kaunghlaphu) township, located in Putao district.
Je Yaw Wu, a senator for Kachin State constituency-1, asked the government during the 16th session of the national parliament in Naypyidaw to consider the needs of locals. He explained to KNG many paddy farms are included in the area the company has applied to mine, so naturally residents “oppose the mining project.”
During parliament, Dr. Ye Myint Swe, Deputy Union Minister of Natural Resources and Environment said the government has not granted Fortuna Metals Company Ltd. an extraction permit, explaining an ‘environmental management plan’ and the MoU are still in the early stages. Before allowing the feasibility study to begin he said the central government queried remarks from the Kachin State government and residents.
But the Kachin State government didn’t ask them what they thought about the mining project, Je Yaw Wu said, and residents sent three letters asking for the project to be shelved.
Duwa Gumgrawng Awng Hkam, vice-chair-2 of Kachin State People’s Party, said the “country needs foreign investment” but was “totally opposed to the mining project.” For most of the year the township is covered in ice, he explained, but when it melts it feeds the Mali Hka and N’mai Hka rivers. “If metals are extracted from the area, I’m sure it will impact the environment. The water level will certainly be reduced and will also impact the Irrawaddy River.”
Included as part of the area that Fortuna Metals Company Ltd. intended to mine are 27,661 acres of the Budaepyin’s protected forest range.
The ministry of forestry said it wouldn’t allow any mining to happen in the forest.
Representatives of Fortuna Metals Company Ltd. met with members of the Kachin National Congress (KNC) to unveil their business plan before the feasibility study started. Chairperson Dr. M. Kawn La said the KNC will oppose mining in the Hkawnglanghpu township if the project does not benefit locals.
Fortuna Metals Co Ltd registered with the government in July 2018, according to Burma’s Directorate of Investment and Company Administration. Two Australians and one Burmese national are the directors of the Burma branch.