Jade mining companies forced to mine despite losses

At a time when the jade market is being buffetted by adverse market forces, jade mining companies in Hpakant (Phakant) in Burma's northern Kachin State are continuing with mining activities apprehensive of being fined by the Burmese military regime, said company sources.

Jade mining companies have been threatened with a fine of 400 million kyat equivalent to US $392,157 per company by the junta if it stops mining activities because of the jade market collapse both in the domestic sector and abroad followed by the world economic meltdown and the US ban on import of Burmese gems last year, according to jade mining companies in Hpakant.

Jade mining sources said, they have to dig for jade incurring losses even though they want to avoid the double loss --- threatened with the vast amount of fine by the regime and the collapse of the jade market.

An eyewitness who recently came back from Hpakant jade mining city told KNG today, that most major jade mining companies are still into mining activities but some have scaled down their activities.

In Hpakant, there are over a hundred major jade mining companies at the moment and they are into mining activities in two ways--- either the "mutual-benefit system or Naing-Ngan-Daw Akyo-to in Burmese" which means sharing profits between jade mining companies and the regime or the "private system" which means paying duty tax to the regime.

The companies under the Akyo-to are provided with required fuel and mining trucks and machines by the regime. However the companies have to pay back the cost of fuel and machines when they have sold jade in the Jade Exhibition Emporium in Rangoon, every three months, the sources added.

On the other hand, the jade mining companies have to bribe millions of kyat to the top leaders of regime--- Chairman Srn-Gen Than Shwe, Vice-chairman Srn-Gen Maung Aye, Prime Minister General Thein Sein and General Thura Shwe Mann, Secretary-1 of the regime, said company sources.

A jade merchant in Hpakant told KNG, "All those in the jade businesses in Hpakant are blaming the market collapse in Hpakant.  A jade stone which was valued at 10 million kyat in the past is now valued at between 2 and 4 million kyat in Hpakant."

Meanwhile, low-quality jade stones hardly sell in the jade markets in Mandalay and Rangoon, according to jade merchants.