Chinese Companies tighten grip on Illegal jade trade in Myanmar

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Hpakant, Kachin State- Myanmar – Jade mining has been illegal in Myanmar since 2019 and operations have increased in Hpakant, in the northern state of Kachin, Myanmar’s main jade-mining area since the military seized power in the 2021 coup.

The illegal jade mining is dominated and conducted by Chinese investors allied with Myanmar’s local authorities and Chinese people who are living in Myanmar.

Sources said that Chinese investors seized the opportunity of benefiting from the illegal jade mining due to Myanmar’s unstable situation.

Hpakant residents said the investors have successfully cornered the market, selling directly to visiting Chinese buyers they are already familiar with.

They said Chinese-owned companies are still smuggling jade across the border, claiming that most of the jade industry is run illegally.

The residents added the government has been ineffective at reducing smuggling or regulating the industry more broadly over the past few years.

Demand from China fuels Myanmar’s jade industry, which takes the form of a murky web of illegal Chinese-funded companies whose exports are facilitated by corrupt links to Myanmar’s military and its adversaries in the Kachin Independence Army.

According to Ma Phyu (fake name), the presence of Chinese investors in the jade trading market, either directly or indirectly, contributed to the devaluation of a single piece of jade, which decreased from one thousand kyats ($0.54) to only one hundred, even if the quality of a small piece of jade is good and pure.

“Chinese investors controlled jade markets, which is why we could not get a good value in the market. They assume ‘if I’m not buying your jade, you have nowhere to sell’,” he added.

He also said that these investors had paid the authorities bribes in order to dig and operate the jade mines in Hpakant City.

At the time of the NLD government, the authority restricted the digging license in Hpakant, revoked the license from some agencies, and stopped the work of others because these are the natural resources and digging operations will adversely affect the environment, according to Phyu.

However, currently, companies do need to get any official approval from authorities.

“After the military made a coup, the local authorities and Chinese investors collaborate here. Chinese from outside of the country are collaborating with local Chinese people from the country, Internal Chinese investors are doing like a buffer between authorities,” said Ma Hla (fake name).

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