Recent government inspections of rare earth mining sites in the Pangwa area of Kachin State were staged, according to multiple local anonymous sources who informed KNG.
One man stated that the Military Council had informed companies at the end of August about sending high-ranking officials from Naypyitaw and Kachin State to Chipwi Township, where the mines are situated. He mentioned that the inspections were prompted because these rare earth mining blocks were illegal, yet the companies had been given sufficient notice to conceal their activities in the area.
Another source, who is from Chipwi town, stated, “Businessmen told their labourers to return home. Currently, all of the rare earth mining blocks have been closed.”
Officials advised these businessmen to cover their acid ponds with black plastic sheets. They warned that if they discovered uncovered ponds, action would be taken against the respective company. Workers who weren’t from the area rented accommodations in Chipwi and Pangwa while military officials from these towns accompanied the inspectors.
The second source speculated, “I think the international community has pressured the Military Council. Therefore, it ordered businessmen to temporarily close all the rare earth mining blocks…Their inspection is nothing more than a show.”
Since the coup, the regime has allowed businesses to mine rare earth without restrictions, causing environmental degradation and impacting the health and livelihoods of the local population in the township of Kachin State. These companies essentially act as fronts for Chinese enterprises, with the majority of investments and profits ending up across the border in China.
According to a 2022 Global Witness report, there are more than 2,700 acid ponds in northern Kachin State. The area used for rare earth mining covers a space larger than Singapore, according to the English-based group.