Two coal mining concessions in Mong Kung township have caused large concerns over their social and environmental impacts on local ethnic Shan communities. The conflict between the residents and the coal extractors begun in 2014 when the two companies Pyae Aung Hein and Hein Myittar received a permission for coal exploration by the Union government. In December 2015, the companies were granted a five-year permit to dig for coal in a 200-acre (ca. 80,1 ha) concession area. Digging activities started in January 2017 . A local state lawmaker said the project would cover about 2,000 acres (ca. 810 ha) .
According to the civil society group Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF), the coal exploration site is about two miles away from Mong Kung town. It is located in a forested mountain area, next to several streams (Nam Huay Hsim, Nam Huay Mar and Nam Kung Lome streams) that flow into the Nam Teng River. Local farmers grow rice, corn, peanuts, water melons and pineapples in the area, allowing them to live well based on their traditional livelihoods. For instance, a family can earn about 1,500,000 kyat (USD 1,100) per year from growing pineapples. The pinewood forest affected by the mining concession has been protected by locals for generations, who go there to collect wild vegetable, mushrooms and other forest livelihood resources .
The residents are concerned over the potentially strong adverse social and environmental impacts from the coal extraction and transport. According to SHRF , thousands of tons of coal have already been piled up near the mining site, blocking the water flow to the farms along the Nam Khi Sang stream. Farmers worry that rain would wash down the mining waste into their fields, destroying their crops [1,3]. 3,000 to 5,000 acres (ca. 1,200 – 2000 ha) of farmland could be affected, said a local lawmaker, who added that if the project would move forward, everybody in the township would be forced to move . Locals are also concerned that the mining activities would pollute the Nam Teng River, a vital water source and livelihood source in Shan State, upon which thousands of people rely upon [1,3]. Since February 2017, the companies begun to cut down the forest, using the wood to build the workers’ houses and selling some to locals. Villagers fear also a drastic increase in transport of coal out of the area, causing air pollution and road damages .
Opposition to the coal mines was voiced by locals since they first heard of the plans. They wrote letters to the companies, local authorities, the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), the Forestry Department, the police and the local Burmese army, urging them to cancel the mining plans . The petition letter to the RCSS was signed by 11 monks and 229 others on 12 November 2014 . A meeting between protest leaders, company representatives and the RCSS followed on 13 January 2015, but failed to resolve the “clash of views” . However, a suspension of operations was eventually achieved [4,5].
The restart of coal mining activities in January 2017 [4,5] renewed the social mobilizations against the mine and provoked the opposition movement to organize a large protest on April 11, 2017 . Megaphones and leaflets were used to inform the villagers . On the day of the protest about 4,000 residents, village leaders, monks, youths, local authorities and state lawmakers from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) joined the protest [1,4]. The protesters marched form Mwe Taw Temple in Mong Kung town to a spirit shrine near the mining site. A ceremony was held and curses were inflicted against the mining companies for ignoring the local opposition. Some protesters damaged the cars of the mining company, despite the orders of the organizers to not use violence .
Two days later, on April 13, 2017, company representatives came to meet with about 50 villagers, monks and politicians and promised them to stop mining operations within one month [1,6]. However, despite these promises, the company staff continued the operations  and set up fences and checkpoints around the mining site . This caused again a series of protests and an eventual suspension of the mining activities, according to local sources. A permission to resume operations was however given by the Union government in May 2018 . The permission required the companies to negotiate with residents to avoid further conflicts, but most locals remain sceptical. As Sai Long, a state lawmaker said: “Our local people will not accept those mining companies even if the Union government allows them to resume working in our township,” (cited in The Irrawaddy, see ).