The Burmese army has bolstered security around the Hpakant jade mining district after a 37-ton slab of jade was discovered on 9 February. The army set up a perimeter with a 15-acre radius and began shutting down small unofficial excavation plots located within.
The Kachin State Government Deputy-Director Kyaw Hsan told DVB that the 13-foot high rock was to be transported away from its discovery location, Weihka district.
The Hpakant mines are famous for producing high-quality jade, yet ongoing conflict between Burmese government forces and the Kachin Independence Army in the region caused the official closure of the mine in 2012.
Unofficial excavation has continued by locals and migrants from across the country, eager to source a living from the precious stone.
Yet a “loose understanding” between unlicensed miners and authorities has not always prevented arrests.
Shwe Thein, National League for Democracy (NLD) chairman for Seikhmu village-tract, said the army had detained Aung Naing Win, discoverer of the giant stone, “for his own safety”. Shwe Thein went onto say that consecutive security checkpoints have been set up on the road to the discovery site.
“The Weihka-based forward battalion of the army’s 101st Light Infantry Division has set up layers of security along the way up to the rock, prohibiting anyone from getting near,” said Shwe Thein.
“Since the discovery of the rock, they began to enforce prohibition of small-time mining operations and it since has been bring a lot of hardship upon the local population who make a living from that.”
Aung Naing Win is reported to have said that he migrated to Hpakant from lower Burma in the hope of a better life.