Swedwatch urges machinery giants to address jade mine abuses

The Kachin Post / June 12, 2020

A jade mining site in Hpakant, Kachin State / Hkun Lat

A Sweden based human rights and environment watchdog Swedwatch has urged the world’s major mining machinery producers to take responsibilities on ongoing human rights abuses and environmental devastation in Hpakant jade mine in Burma’s northern Kachin State.

“Swedwatch calls again on Caterpillar Inc., Komatsu Ltd and Volvo Construction Equipment to comply with international human rights standards for doing business in high-risk area,” according to the press statement released by Swedwatch on Wednesday.

With the support of Act Church of Sweden, Swedwatch Wednesday released a report “Still Overlooked-Communities affected by jade mining operations in Myanmar, and the responsibilities of companies providing machinery”, calling Caterpillar Inc., Komatsu Ltd and Volvo Construction Equipment to urgently conduct due diligence on their sales to Burma’s jade industry and to transparently act on the result. The report also call the Burmese government to adopt legislation on mandatory human rights due diligence. “Failing to do so will result in continue loss of life, human misery and destruction of the environment,” the statement said.

The billion dollar worth of jade industry in Burma is controlled by the country’s top military generals and some ethnic-armed organizations. The jade revenues reportedly helps fuelling the world’s longest civil war as both the Burma Army and the ethnic-armed organizations believed to be letting the thousands of mining machines into Hpakan jade mine without proper permit.

“Over ten thousands mining machines were used in jade mine since 2016, including those produced by the world’s largest mining equipment companies, Caterpillar Inc., Komatsu Ltd and Volvo Construction Equipment,” the report said. “Swedwatch’s understanding is that there is no reason to believe that this number is decreased since then,”

Swedwatch said the recent report is follow-up for its 2018 publication and shows the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the country is continuing to undermine in Kachin State.

In June 2018, Swedwatch released a initial report “Overlooked and Undermine-Communities affected by jade mining operations in Myanmar, and the responsibilities of companies providing machinery” regarding the Hpakant jade mine, highlighting irresponsible jade extraction has led to extensive human rights sufferings and environmental degradation in Burma’s conflict-ridden Kachin State and the heavy mining machinery made by the Caterpillar, Komatsu and Volvo has enable jade extraction to take place at unprecedented speed.

The report showed how negligent used of mining machines in Kachin’s Hpakant jade mine has created significant environmental destruction, and the irresponsible mining practices are linked to a range of severe human rights impact, including hundreds of deaths in landslides, loss of land and livelihoods, and lethal traffic accidents involving mining trucks. Over 200 persons have reportedly died by the landslides since mid 2018, according to the report.

Swedwatch is an independent, non-profit research organization, investigating the extent to which companies, investors and authorities are taking responsibilities for human rights and environment.

The organization was founded in 2013.