However, the government forged a preliminary ceasefire with the Kachin rebels in May, and some traders predict Hpakant’s mines will re-open when the monsoon ends this month.
When operations are in full swing, the road to Hpakant is clogged with vehicles bringing fuel in and jade out. Such is the scale and speed of modern extraction, Yitnang Ze Lum said, adding that Hpakant’s jade could be gone within 10 years.
“Every Kachin feels passionately that their state’s resources are being taken away,” a leading Myitkyina gem trader said on condition of anonymity. “But we’re powerless to stop them.”
Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard