The Tatmadaw’s Hpakant-based 33 Brigade yesterday verbally ordered mining operations to temporarily hide machinery whilst military authorities investigate whether a recent order to halt jade mining in the region is being observed, local businessmen told DVB.
In a farce worthy of previous eras of military rule, the junta’s own Department of Mines had, with the 33 Brigade, issued the order to cease jade mining a few days ago after hearing that military authorities were to launch an investigation.
“We have been told to hide our heavy machinery and vehicles. The 33 Brigade said inspectors will come to the mining area, so we immediately removed tools and machinery from the mines,” an anonymous businessman said.
All permits for the mining of Hpakants jade plots expired in August. Despite this, local authorities in cooperation with the 33 Brigade had run a lucrative side hustle on bribes taken to allow operators to continue mining with heavy machinery.
Local miners said that they had discovered that the machines of operators that had continued to flout the ban had been removed this morning.
“I saw that mining had stopped immediately last night, and many people are flustered. Something must have happened,” a resident of Ma Sut Yang village said.
Locals, used to the charade, told DVB that the disappearing act was all for show. Inspectors, they said, are operating in cahoots with officers of the 33 Brigade, and mining works will continue as soon as the inspection team departs.
“This is the way it used to be under military rule. Armed troops, businessmen, and Kachin State’s local authorities are behind all of this and making large profits,” a Kachin activist said.
There are said to be hundreds of heavy machines used in Hpakants illegal jade mining industry currently hidden across the township, waiting to restart operations as soon as inspectors—tasked with halting operations—give them the green light.