Kachin, Myanmar's northernmost state, holds much of the country's resource wealth. It has also seen armed conflict between the Kachin Independence Organization and the military since the 1960s.
Since the military took over Kachin’s jade mines, the world’s largest, from the KIO in the 1990s, the industry has been dominated by military-linked companies and armed groups. Intensive mining has ravaged the landscape and led to numerous deadly landslides.
Banana plantations have rapidly expanded across Kachin since around 2006, and have drawn controversy for their environmental impact and for land disputes between companies and local farmers.
Kachin’s amber has yielded numerous archaeological findings, but mining it has come at a high social cost since the military began taking over the mines from the KIO around 2017, displacing thousands.
Opium poppy farming has served as a cash crop in areas of Kachin and northern Shan State along the China border for years, especially in areas controlled by military-aligned militias.
The input of chemicals, including mercury and cyanide, into Kachin's waterways through gold mining, as well as the buildup of sediment, have long raised environmental alarms.
Since the coup, rule of law has dramatically deteriorated across Myanmar, and the military has accelerated its exploitation of natural resources to sustain itself in the face of a collapsing formal economy, increasing international sanctions and an ongoing civil disobedience movement. This project looks at how these dynamics are playing out in Kachin State’s jade, banana, amber, gold and opium economies.