2nd Prize Singles, Environment
15 July 2020
A Buddhist temple occupies one half of a mountain, while the other has been carved away by heavy machinery mining for jade, in Hpakant, Kachin State, Myanmar, on 15 July.
Hpakant is the site of the world’s biggest jade mine, and is the largest supplier of jadeite, the more valuable of the two forms of jade. Global Witness reported Myanmar’s jade trade to be worth US$31 billion in 2014 alone—nearly half the country’s GDP. The Myanmar government has made promises to tackle problems in the sector, but progress has been slow. Destruction of the environment by mining operations includes indiscriminate vegetation loss, degradation of farmland, and river sedimentation, and is mainly a result of inappropriate mining practices. At Hpakant sites, issues include illegally high heaps of mining waste, vast abandoned mining pits, and companies failing to stabilize deep excavations. Landslides are frequent, including a mudslide after heavy rainfall in July 2020 that killed at least 100 people.