The Laymai People’s Militia Force (PMF) has been turning away workers who are desperate enough to pay exorbitant quarantine fees as a condition of working in their rare earth mines, while local residents fear the environmental impact of the mining in Chipwi Township.
The pro-junta PMF controlled by Zahkung Ting Ying charges those from outside the township $84 to work at the mine in Pangwa area, compared to only $40 from locals. They started to limit the number of people allowed to pass through its checkpoint since numbers increased in November.
“Everyone has to queue at the checkpoint between 9am and 2pm. They only take in 120 people a week, so the others have to wait until the next week,” one local told KNG, asking that his name not be mentioned. Some return home after waiting for days.One miner KNG spoke to, who asked not to be named, said the PMF should not ask so much from people in economic hardship. He said that after the coup it was really difficult to find work and that was why so many had come to work at the mine.
Another local source, who also requested anonymity, told KNG before the military coup, there were only a few people who came to this area. ”Since July, many people have come. Although I do not know exactly how many have passed through the Laymai checkpoint, I suspect that more than 1,000 people have worked at the rare earth mine in Pangwa, although the number could be higher.”
Under Aung San Suu Kyi’s government, residents resisted unregulated mining funded by Chinese investors because they feared the water in Kachin State would be poisoned by the mining, said another local source, who asked that his name not be published. ”If agriculture is affected, locals will no longer be able to make a living from farming,” the man said. Residents failed to stop mining before the coup, now there are mining blocks all over Pangwa and he’s heard that it has also started in Hsawlaw Township too.
Rare earth mining extracts materials needed for use in computers, phones and batteries. However, this process that requires huge areas of land, produces enormous amounts of toxic and radioactive material caused by the simultaneous extraction of thorium and uranium, which is extremely harmful to the environment.