2021 Photo Contest, Environment, 2nd Prize

Temple and Half-Mountain


Hkun Lat

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.

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. Demand from China, where jade is a popular status symbol, fuels the industry. Global Witness reported Myanmar’s jade trade to be worth US$31 billion in 2014 alone—nearly half the country’s GDP—and that the sector appeared to be controlled by networks of military elites, drug lords, and crony companies. The National League for Democracy (NLD) government has made promises to tackle problems in the sector, but progress has been slow. Companies do not fulfill government requirements to undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to international standards, and officials allegedly lack the capacity to assess EIAs. 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.

About the photographer

Hkun Lat

Hkun Lat is a documentary photographer from Myanmar.  He is a former stringer photojournalist at AP Images and currently works at Frontier Myanmar Magazine and on as...

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