The regime’s armed forces have arrested several small-scale gold prospectors along the Irrawaddy River, rather than large companies using heavy machinery to mine for the precious metal, causing most of the environmental destruction in Kachin State.
Last Friday, the armed forces arrested five villagers from Alam in Myitkyina Township. A member of the Group for the Protection of the Irrawaddy River (KNG) says the Burma Army (BA) should target the big companies and not the villagers, who’re not the problem.
“I think they’re missing the big picture. There are no big machines (for gold mining) in Alam. But there are many gold mining companies (using large machinery to extract gold) on the banks of the Irrawaddy River, including in the N’mai Kha, Waingmaw and Nawng Nan areas. Yet they haven’t charged these big gold mining companies. This is unfair to the local people,” the man told KNG on condition of anonymity.
During the arrests in Alam, the BA seized small pieces of equipment, including motorized rafts used by the miners, and remained in the riverside village until the next day. The mining equipment was taken away in two military trucks, according to a villager who asked that his name not be mentioned. The armed forces prevented any villagers from entering the mining site by threatening them and shooting their guns in the air.
The authorities told the villagers that they’d arrested the miners and taken away their rafts for blocking the river. Another source, who also asked not to be named, said that the reasons given by the armed forces didn’t make sense because the villagers weren’t doing harm like the many larger companies.
Under military rule, gold mining has increased around the suspended Myitsone Dam in Kachin State, with crony mining companies using large backhoes to extract the precious metal against the wishes of local residents.
In Chipwi Township, mining companies along the Maykha River are protected by the local People’s Militia, which is subordinate to the regime, according to another source who doesn’t wish to be named. The man said gold mining, which began in May, increased dramatically in October and fears that soil erosion will lead to flooding when the rainy season begins in the spring.