Foreign consultants help with ‘cleaner’ mining practices


Workers use heavy earth-excavators at the Hpa Kant jade mining area, Kachin State, northern Myanmar, 25 February 2017. Photo: La Min Tun/EPA

Efforts are being made to pursue more environmentally friendly practices in the Lonkhin-Hpakant Gems Tract in cooperation with local companies.

The jade mining operation in the Lonkhin-Hpakant Gems Tract has resulted in environmental damage. To address this impact, Environmental Management Plans (EMPs) were prepared by a team led by Australian-based consultants Coffey Myanmar Limited and Valentis Services Limited (Coffey-Valentis), in partnership with local company Geosystems Engineering Myanmar. The final EMPs were submitted to the Environmental Conservation Department through the Myanmar Gems Enterprise.

Coffey Myanmar Limited and Valentis Services Limited (Coffey-Valentis), together with Geosystems Engineering Myanmar, won the tender for the preparation of Environmental Management Plan for Lonkhin/Hpakant Gems Tract.Coffey-Valentis and Myanmar Gems and Jewellery Entrepreneurs Association signed the agreement for the preparation of the EMPs for theLonkhin/Hpakant Gems Tract. 

Union Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, Ohn Win said: “The Myanmar Government is committed to protecting the environment and creating sustainable communities. The utilization of natural resources shall be managed in such a way that is kept for the next generations to come, the extraction shall be done in a sustainable manner, and that is why the Ministry has set the goal for the future. The jade sector is important for future economic development of the country. Preparing the EMPs is the very first step to achieve future goals that is to significantly address the environment and social impacts of jade mining.” 

Each of the EMPs has three sections: The first part sets the context in terms of the laws and rules for environmental management, the existing environment and impact assessment, and the environmental framework. The second part provides the measures that miners should implement to improve environmental performance through to the steps for proper mine closure and rehabilitation. The third part focuses on implementation, outlining the performance criteria for determining successful implementation of the EMP.

“The EMPs are practical and appropriate for Myanmar. They feature international standards and good practices that mining companies can easily implement. The guidelines will definitely help improve operations throughout the full mining cycle, from site exploration to mine closure and rehabilitation,” said Aung Nyunt Thein, the Managing Director of Myanmar Gems Enterprise.

The EMPs will be applicable formining companies of all sizes — large, medium, small and artisanal. They contain practical instructions to protect the environment, to have mine safety and to enhance the quality of life of the community around the mines. These EMPs will be used for all mining activities. 

The EMPs were prepared for the Lonkhin/Hpakant Gems tract, Kachin State where Myanmar’s main source of jade comes from. These EMPs shall be implemented with the guidance of Myanmar Gems and Jewellery Entrepreneurs Association by all the Jade Mining Companies. 

Myanmar Gems and Jewellery Entrepreneurs Association Joint-Secretary 1 Hla Soe Oo said: “The Preparation of EMPs for Lonkhin/Hpakant Gems Tract is a major change. There will be positive outcomes when the EMPs are implemented according to international practices.” 

A transitional period of one year will allow mining companies and relevant government authorities to build capacity and undertake the relevant training to ensure effective implementation. During this time, Coffey-Valentis will work with MGE to implement the EMPs on pilot sites to demonstrate a practical implementation so that other companies will see in reality and learn. 

“The Lonkhin/Hpakant EMPs are fit for the purpose. They are designed to address the impacts causing the most harm to the environment and people – in each management plan, there are instructions for creating stable land forms to prevent landslides and flooding, as well as erosion and sedimentation of rivers, creeks and streams. There are also specific measures to safeguard native forests and their plants and animals, properly manage waste, reduce dust, minimize noise and promote revegetation when mining is finished. As part of the EMP preparation, a team of environmental specialists, social scientists, geotechnical engineers and geologists spent time at the mines, conducting surveys and interviewing mining companies, NGOs and local administration,”said Barton Napier, a Senior Principal from Coffey-Valentis who headed the preparation of EMPs for Lonkhin/Hpakant Gems Tract.

“The EMPs have been developed in a manner to ensure that Jade Mining companies can practically implement them in accordance with Myanmar’s laws and good international practice. Jade mining is important for the economy of Myanmar and its people. Implementation of the EMPs shall ensure the mining is undertaken in an environmentally responsible manner,” said Lachlan Foy, Director of Coffey-Valentis.

Environmental protection is now a priority in Jade and Gems production. Jade and gems are owned by all citizens.A focus will be made on sustainable production in the gem stone sector. 

As the objectives of Gems Sector, for the sustainable development of the country and its people, we are working towards “Responsible and Accountable Gems industries.” 

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