Illegal gold mine operations have run unchecked in the capital of Myanmar’s Kachin state since the military seized power 10 months ago, raising concerns for villagers who spent years protesting a massive Chinese-backed dam project in the early 2000s.
Local sources along the Irrawaddy River in Kachin recently told RFA’s Myanmar Service that illegal gold mining operations began in earnest only weeks after the military’s Feb. 1 coup. They said they fear the unregulated activities could damage the waterway and the surrounding environment.
A resident who gave her name as Laura said that a gold mining operation in Myitsone is situated at a riverbend where the current is extremely strong. She said the mining impacts the integrity of the banks and could lead the river to change course during the rainy season, flooding nearby Tanphare village.
“Gold mining with the use of all this heavy machinery shouldn’t be done here. If they continue to mine like this, our Myitsone scenery will be lost forever,” she said.
“Tanphare village may also have flooding issues. I’m very much worried that we would lose all of our beautiful natural environment.”
Gold miners are dredging the Irrawaddy to collect the mineral from the riverbed, dumping the silt and wastewater back into the waterway and causing serious pollution, sources said.