No let up in jade mining despite market condition and US sanctions

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There is no let up in jade mining activities in Hpakant (Phakant) in Burma's northern Kachin state despite the jade markets being in the doldrums in the country and abroad in the wake of the current world economic meltdown and US sanctions on importing Burmese gems, said local sources.

Daily mining activities with hundreds of modern sophisticated machines continue and the mining activities have been resumed last month after a break in the monsoons, local jade traders in Hpakant said.

Soon after China's Beijing Olympic Games in August, the Ministry of Mines under of the Burmese ruling junta created more than 400 new jade mining blocks in Hpakant, Lonkin (Lawng Hkang) and Taw Maw, according to ethnic Kachin jade merchants in Hpakant.

Local jade traders added, the Ministry has granted most new jade mining blocks to Burman tycoon Tay Za or Teza, the owner of the country's former capital Rangoon-based Htoo Company and son-in-law of the junta's Senior General Than Shwe.  Now, Tay Za controls all the jade mines of Tingkaw (Taungkaw), Kawng San and golf field in Lonkin and most jade mining areas in Maw See Zar.

Other private jade companies without direct links with the junta, have to bribe over 200 million kyats (est. US $163,934) for a mining permission to the top five high ranking officials in Naypyidaw, the new capital of the country--- senior general Than Shwe, vice-senior general Maung Aye, the junta's No. 3 Gen. Thura Shwe Mann, Prime Minister Gen. Thein Sein and Brig-Gen Ohn Myint, the Minister of Mines, said jade companies sources.

New jade mining blocks are granted to private jade companies only with the approval and signatures of all five military brasses in Naypyidaw, added jade companies in Hpakant.

On the other hand, the junta has set up a new jade mining system known as "Naing-ngan-daw Akyoto" meaning mutual benefit between the junta and jade companies in Hpakant jade mining areas since 2005. Jade mining areas are also confiscated under that category.

All jade companies are allowed to mine under the 'Naing-ngan-daw Akyoto' with small mining permission fees by the junta. However the companies have to pay 40 per cent out of each jade sale, said sources close to the jade companies in the 'Naing-ngan-daw Akyoto'.

All jade stones from companies in both private and 'Naing-ngan-daw Akyoto' have to sell at the junta-held emporium every three months in Rangoon in which private jade companies have to pay 10 per cent from each jade sale to the junta, said jade traders.

Jade is the third highest foreign exchange earner for ruling junta and it earned an estimated $400 million from Hpakant jade industries in 2007.
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