A parliamentarian called on the Tatmadaw to reopen gold and amber mines closed since 2018 when the Burma Army launched a series of offensives driving out the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) from the lucrative region in northern Burma.
During a session in Parliament this month, Lin Lin Oo, an MP for Tanai (Danai) township, asked Lt-Gen Sein Win, from the Office of Commander in Chief of Burma Army, when small mining companies will be allowed back into the mines in Tanai township, in Kachin State.
Sein Win replied the Army doesn’t have any intention of allowing small mining enterprises to operate gold and amber mines in the Hukawng Valley, claiming that in the past they generated funding for KIA insurgents. Sein Win said the KIA had a military base near the mines, and collected taxes and recruited soldiers. Additionally, the KIA planted many landmines. He explained if mining is allowed to open up again the KIA will use it to infiltrate the mines and the nearby town.
It wasn’t the first time Lin Lin Oo asked the Army when it will allow small business owners back into the mines. In a late January session of parliament, he also pushed the Army to reopen the mines.
The Kachin State government believes opening up the region again for mining will stimulate the economy, creating valuable employment opportunities. But the Army is blocking it.
Lin Lin Oo wants the Army to allow mining to resume in Nambyu, Nyaungpyin Kone, Zephyu Kone and Tung Mani, all located in Tanai township.
“Many say that there’s illegal mining happening in the area. But the Army isn’t allowing the state government or parliamentarians go there to see what’s going on, claiming it’s for their security,” Lin Lin Oo said.
A Tanai resident, who requested anonymity, said some businesses are still operating in the mines.
“Officially, no-one is allowed to go there and the Burma Army has security watching the area. But we know some are paying bribes so they can illegally work there. If the Army wants to close the mines, they have to do it without exceptions. If the Army wants to open the mine, it must open them for everyone. Now our state government is losing taxes from illegal mining.”
Last year, the state government attempted to open over 7,000 acres in Tanai township for mining but the move was blocked by the Army, claiming opening the region would create a security risk.
In 2017, the Tatmadaw attacked KIA’s Battalion 14 in the Hukawng Valley, pushing the ethnic armed organization out of the resource-rich region by the following year.