Hundreds of Kachin nationalities have demanded the closure of a rare earth mine planned by the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) in Momauk Township. Nearly 200 villagers from N’ba Pa protested at the location of the mine site in Kachin State for two days.
“Everyone knows that it (the rare earth mine) isn’t good for all of us. We’ll keep protesting against it until the project is shelved,” one man, who wished to remain anonymous, told KNG. He said the next generation will still suffer from pollution when the profits from the mine dry up, and that is why they’re against it.
On 16 January, the villagers were also joined by some civilians displaced by the war, a Kachin Baptist Convention officer for Bhamo District and a Catholic monk from Momauk town.
Last December, villagers wrote to the KIO asking them to stop its plans for a mine in Dingsing Pa, and some religious leaders met with leaders of the Kachin armed group. For three years, the KIO has allowed Chinese investors to mine rare earths in the N’kawng Pa and Gauri Krung mountain range. Now the armed group are taking measurements and sending materials to the new mine.
“The KIO should respect our voice. As a government, it must protect the people and respect their wishes,” said a social volunteer, who also requested anonymity.
According to KIO spokesperson Col Naw Bu, officials in the eastern district are discussing the issue.
Rare earth elements (REE) are used for a variety of applications such as semiconductors, mobile phones, computer hard drives, electric and hybrid vehicles, and flat panel displays and televisions. REE ores contain metals that, when combined with chemicals from the leaching pool, pollute the air, water and soil. In addition, the ores are often laced with radioactive thorium and uranium, which have adverse health effects.