Farmers in northern Kachin State want to stop gold mining in the area to protect their livelihoods and the local environment. They blamed the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), which is fighting the military regime, for allowing companies to mine near their village in Sumprabum Township after receiving kick backs.
Gold mining in Sumprabum Township started in 2009, however, it has increased under the KIO. Locals said the Kachin armed group approved gold mining in their area without consulting with the community to hear what it wanted.
“KIO has given permission to businessmen to extract gold, which we oppose because there are paddy fields and rotating farms near our village of Hpung Ein Yang,” one man told KNG on condition of anonymity.
KIO officials reportedly told them they’d already issued licences to Aik Wang and Achi to mine 40 acres along the Hpung Ing River next to the village after receiving ‘taxes’. A couple of weeks ago, the businessmen sent backhoes to the mining site.
In October, representatives of 24 families from the village met with officials of the KIO’s armed wing, Kachin Independence Army (KIA) Battalion 7. Another meeting convened from 29-30 November, but the KIO refused to agree to their demands to end the mining.
“The environment will be damaged if they extract gold in the area and we depend on the water from the Hpung Ing River (for agriculture and drinking water),” the villager explained. He said the mining will dirty the river, which will reduce its water flow and cause long-term problems.
Another township resident, who couldn’t say who approved the mining projects, commented: “We’ve observed that after the military coup, gold mining has been going on in many places in Sumprabum, such as Tayang Zup and Daruhka areas, and locals feel powerless to resist it.”