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Land and human rights abuses in the jade industry, Myanmar

Myanmar produces around 70 percent of the world’s jadeite, an industry causing environmental impacts under dire working conditions. Repeated landslides kill many people. The industry seems to fuel the ethnic conflict in the region.


Myanmar is one of the main producers of jade in the world. It is estimated that around 70 percent of the world’s jadeite, a variety of jade, comes from Myanmar [1]. One of the main production sites is located in Hpakan, in Kachin state, an area where an ethnic conflict between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Myanmar army has been running for decades.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Land and human rights abuses in the jade industry, Myanmar
State or province:Kachin state
Location of conflict:Hpakant township
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral ore exploration
Specific commodities:Jade
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Value of the industry: USD31 billion in 2014

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Type of populationSemi-urban
Start of the conflict:01/01/1990
Company names or state enterprises:Myanmar Gems Enterprise from Myanmar
Relevant government actors:Myanmar government, Kachin Independence Organization, United Wa State Party,
Former dictator Than Shwe and generals Maung Maung Thein and Ohn Myint
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Global Witness (
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
Reaction stageLATENT (no visible resistance)
Groups mobilizing:Neighbours/citizens/communities
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Waste overflow, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion
Potential: Noise pollution, Soil contamination
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths
Other Health impactsMany victims in periodic landslides
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Violations of human rights
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Repression
In 2016, the government announced that new gem mining licenses and the renewal of those that expire would be suspended until a new law on gemstones is passed [11]
Proposal and development of alternatives:Tighter control of the money flow to make sure that the jade industry is not linked to conflicts and improvements in the working conditions in the industry
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The industry is running business-as-usual
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Draft of the Myanmar Gemstone Law (draft released in 2017, not approved yet)
[click to view]

2008 Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE bill
[click to view]

[1] Jade or JADE? Debating International Sanctions on Burma's Gem Industry, Renaud Egreteau, Asia Pacific Bulletin, N. 132, Oct 2011
[click to view]

[2] South China Morning Post, FYI: Why is jade so important to the Chinese? April 20, 2008
[click to view]

[3] U.S. lawmakers target Myanmar military with new sanctions, Reuters, November 2, 2017
[click to view]

[4] Jade: Myanmar's biggest secret, Global Witness, October 2015
[click to view]

[5] 17 dead in Myanmar jade mine landslide, AFP, May 4, 2018
[click to view]

[6] Battling for blood jade, TIME magazine, March 2017
[click to view]

[7] Myanmar: Hell hath no fury like Hpakant, Global Post, December 2013
[click to view]

[8] At least 113 dead, more than 100 missing in Myanmar landslide, AP, Nov 23, 2015
[click to view]

[9] Is Myanmar's jade business driving ethnic tensions?, Al Jazeera, Sept 19, 2017
[click to view]

[10] Displaced by fighting, villagers take shelter in Hpakant, Democratic Voice of Burma, Sept 25, 2012
[click to view]

[13] Myanmar jade mine landslide kills 160, BBC, July, 2, 2020
[click to view]

[14] Jade mining disaster should be wake-up call for Myanmar government, Global Witness July 2, 2020
[click to view]

[15] Manila Times (4 July 2020) (AP/Xihua)
[click to view]

10 Kachin Locals Protest Draft Myanmar Gemstone Law, The Irrawaddy, March 5, 2018
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Laura Villadiego, Carro de Combate, [email protected]
Last update08/07/2020
Conflict ID:3339
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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