Bomb blasts in Rangoon threatens ensuing jade emporium

Firms dealing in jade, sellers and business-related to jade in Burma are extremely worried about the ensuing jade emporium show going off smoothly after two bombs exploded in different places in the country’s former capital Rangoon on March 3, said local jade businessmen.

Jade businessmen said, this year’s first week-long jade emporium is slated to be inaugurated on March 8 in Rangoon and all jade mining companies and sellers are transporting their jade stones from Hpakant (also known as Hpakan in Kachin) jade mines in Burma’s northern Kachin State to Rangoon.

Hpakant jade mine in Kachin State, northern Burma.The jade companies and businessmen are worried on two counts in the wake of the Rangoon bomb blasts --- whether the emporium will open at all according to schedule and whether the number of international jade merchants visiting will decrease if it eventually opens, said local jade company sources.

A jade merchant in Ruili (Shweli), China’s biggest border trade town in Yunnan province along Burma said, Chinese jade companies in Yunnan and Guangdong provinces are also terribly worried after the bomb blasts in Rangoon as the emporium show nears.

They have invested a huge amount of money in several jade mining companies in Hpakant and they have been selling their jade stones at regular jade emporium shows if they receive favourable prices.  If they do not get favourable prices at the Rangoon emporium, they bring jade to China by aircrafts and ships.

Presently, there are hundreds of jade companies buying and selling jade and hundreds of jade mining companies in Burma. They are worried whether they can sell jade in the emporium show, according to local jade merchants.

Because jade sales have fallen since the US sanction on Burmese gem last year, all jade mining companies in Hpakant are facing shortage of money to run daily jade mining activities, said Hpakant sources.

Several small jade mining companies in Hpakant stopped mining activities since last year but now several big jade mining companies are also trying to sell their sophisticated mining machines, trucks and oil at special reduced prices. But, there are no buyers, according to jade merchants in Hpakant.

Since 1994, when the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), largest insurgent group in Kachin State signed a ceasefire agreement with Burma’s ruling junta, jade mining methods have changed. From manual operations it is now done with sophisticated machines.  The mining costs are therefore high.

A jade company has hundreds of workers and spends over 10 million kyat (est. US $ 10,110) per day.  It is for this reason that the jade companies have to rely on regular emporium shows in Rangoon which helps generate crucial financial resources.

Burma’s ruling junta holds jade emporium shows in Rangoon every year and three or four emporium shows have been held in Rangoon since 2007.

A jade merchant in Ruili told KNG today, he believed that two-thirds of all Hpakant jade related companies may have to shut down if jade sales fall again at the ensuing Rangoon emporium show.

The Burmese military junta's third largest foreign exchange earnings come from gem exports.