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Gold mining in Indawgyi Lake, Myanmar

Despite being recognized by the UNESCO as an area of high conservation value, gold mining is happening in the surroundings of the Indawgyi Lake, contaminating the waters with mercury and cyanide and increasing the sedimentation in the lake.


Located in the remote northern Kachin state, Indawgyi lake is Myanmar’s largest freshwater lake and one of the largest in Southeast Asia. It is also considered a high-value conservation area that “provides habitat for 10 globally threatened bird species and is of outstanding value for the conservation of migrating waterbirds”, according to UNESCO [1].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Gold mining in Indawgyi Lake, Myanmar
State or province:Kachin state
Location of conflict:Indawgyi Biosphere Reserve
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral ore exploration
Logging and non timber extraction
Specific commodities:Gold
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Area: 133,715 hectares. This is the area of the Indawgyi Biosphere Reserve, including the lake area, floating vegetation areas, swamp forest and seasonally flooded grasslands

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Project area:133,715
Level of Investment:unknown
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:35,000
Start of the conflict:01/01/1999
Relevant government actors:Myanmar’s Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry
International and Finance InstitutionsUNESCO - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) from France
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Pan Kachin Development Society
Fauna and Flora International (,
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
International ejos
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Public campaigns
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Mine tailing spills, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Potential: Soil contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Other Health impacts
Potential: Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Other Health impactsHealth issues related to water contamination
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Loss of livelihood
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Under negotiation
Development of alternatives:NGOs have proposed to reinforce the surveillance in the area and boost ecotourism.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Even though some protection has been granted to the area in theory, the mines are still degrading the environment in the area.
Sources & Materials
Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[1] Indawgyi Lake Wildlife Sanctuary. UNESCO Tentative list (accessed on 28.01.2019).
[click to view]

[7] In Myanmar, a Lake That Sustained Generations Feels Strains, The New York Times, May 28, 2017 (accessed on 28.01.2019).
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[6] Illegal logging ‘ravaging’ Myanmar’s Indawgyi Lake Wildlife Reserve, November 16, 2016 (accessed on 28.01.2019).
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[5] Security Concerns Hamper Tackling Illegal Gold Mining Around Indawgyi Lake, The Irrawaddy, May 31, 2017 (accessed on 28.01.2019).
[click to view]

[4] Illegal gold miners disrupt serene Indawgyi Lake, Myanmar Times, June 2, 1027 (accessed on 28.01.2019).
[click to view]

[6] At What Price Gold Mining in Kachin State, Burma?, Report, Images Asia & Pan Kachin Development Society, November 2004 (accessed on 28.01.2019).
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[3] Gold mining, conflict threaten Indawgyi Lake, Myanmar Times, January 11, 2016 (accessed on 28.01.2019).
[click to view]

[2] Indawgyi Biosphere Reserve, Man and Biosphere Programme, UNESCO (accessed on 28.01.2019).
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Laura Villadiego, Carro de Combate, [email protected]
Last update28/01/2019
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