MANDALAY — A gold mine operator in Mandalay Division’s Yamethin Township on Thursday staged a protest urging the government to renegotiate the payments the company is required to make to the state.
Representatives of the National Prosperity Gold Production Group Ltd (NPGPGL), which conducts mining operations in Moehti Moemi region, were joined by about 400 laborers in a march in Yamethin on Thursday to demand a renegotiation of contract terms and to protest against the Department of Mining’s suspension of mining in the area.
Early last month the department, under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, issued an order suspending gold mining in the region.
“The department said mining was suspended because we had failed to hand over the proper amount of gold. But we were unable to produce gold in the expected amounts, so how can we submit the amount cited in the contract with the ministry?” NPGPGL chairman U Soe Tun Shein told The Irrawaddy.
The department’s order suspended mining operations at NPGPGL and two other gold mining companies from Nov. 8.
The gold mining firm said the suspension has affected laborers, whose livelihoods depend entirely on mining. The department did not specify the duration of the suspension.
“Since the mine has to stop, how can we feed our workers? Also, suspending gold mines for a long time can affect conditions in the mines themselves and make it difficult to mine in the future,” U Soe Tun Shein said.
“We appealed to the department to renegotiate [the contracts]. But they refused and suspended mining instead. We just want to negotiate,” he said.
According to an official from the Department of Mining, the two other gold mining companies — one in Yamethin, and another in Shan State — have promised to submit the gold payments as required.
“We will discuss the situation with NPGPGL soon. We understand their situation and we plan to hold discussions with them,” said a Department of Mining spokesperson. “But, before an agreement can be reached, and during negotiations, gold mining has to be suspended.”
NPGPGL began mining for gold in Yamethin in 2011. The department says it has already eased the amount of gold the company is required to hand over to the state, during negotiations in 2013 and 2014.
According to the department, in fiscal year 2016-17, NPGPGL was required to pay 160 viss (260 kilograms) of gold. Gold mining companies are required to submit a contracted amount of gold to the department every year.
If a gold mining company fails to submit the contracted amount of gold to the ministry, it can suspend mining or terminate the contract.