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A freelance jade miner died of a gunshot wound in Seik Mu village tract in Hpakant, Kachin State, on the morning of 8 October, following a confrontation between miners and police.
Sunday’s fatal incident occurred after a crowd of freelance miners – who eke out their livelihoods by scavenging for scraps of jade at open-face pits – gathered at the site entrance to protest the temporary closure of the mine by its contractors, the 111 mining firm.
“The company relented on Sunday morning and opened the gates, allowing the miners to surge inside,” said Shwe Thein, the chairperson of the NLD chapter in Seik Mu village tract. “Some are saying that the special police unit guarding the site on behalf of the mining company began firing warning shots into the air as the crowd was too big to control.
“A young man was shot in the leg. The bullet plowed straight through his thigh. He died on the way to Myitkyina hospital.”
The deceased was named as 18-year-old Zin Lin Oo from Minkin Township in Sagaing Division.
According to Officer Tun Aung of Seik Mu police station, the local police force has investigated the incident and passed the case on to Hpakant police station, which is responsible for proceeding with any legal action.
Zin Lin Oo is the latest casualty in a series of violent episodes and controversies at the jade-rich mines in the Sagaing and Kachin regions. In May, four miners were shot dead and seven seriously wounded when security forces opened fire on freelance miners who had been barred from scavenging for jade scraps at a site in Khamti Township, Sagaing Division.
Observers say the jade mining business in the region is uncontrolled and largely lawless. However, it attracts thousands of migrants hoping to get lucky scavenging for jadeite. The mines have also spawned a sub-culture of drug addiction, gambling, prostitution and other underground activities.
Read more: The Great Jade Robbery
WATCH DVB documentary: ‘Hpakant’s jade curse’