The Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) has allowed Wa mining companies to start extracting rare earths despite facing local opposition in its Brigade 7 area in Chipwi Township, Kachin State.
“They have already extracted rare earths near our village, and now they are just outside of our village, flooding it with water. We want this to stop,” a villager from Hpare told KNG on condition of anonymity.
After writing an open letter opposing the mining in April, the villagers held a meeting with the KIO and some of the companies late last month, which did not yield any results. Officials from the armed group told them that they could not stop it because their orders came from its central committee.
Last year, mining was going on in the mountain range near Hpare. Now they are preparing to dig next to the village and soldiers from the KIO’s armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), are providing security.
Residents are concerned that chemical waste from the mining will pollute their water sources affecting their farms, agriculture and their own health.
There isn’t connectivity in the village and the nearest town, Chipwi, is a day’s journey away. As Hpare is located on the border with China, the villagers can use the Chinese telephone network.
In other areas of the township, groups loyal to the regime, such as the People’s Militia Force and the Border Guard Force, are also mining rare earths against the will of the population.
Another anonymous source said that the KIO wasn’t yet involved in the business when these groups started it in the township.
“They’re all armed organisations, how can we oppose them?” he asked.
However, the KIO stopped mining rare earths in April after encountering resistance from people in the Dingsing Pa and N’ba Pa areas of Mansi Township.
The man pointed out that the people in Mansi were informed and well organised to collectively oppose it but in his area, things are different.
“When businessmen pay money, these villagers take the money and they don’t say anything.”