Gold Miners March on Naypyidaw

By Nyein Nyein 11 June 2012

More than 1,000 gold miners from Mandalay Division began marching to Naypyidaw on Monday after their demands to keep working in the area were rejected.

The miners began by walking from 12 gold mine zones in the Moehti Moemi area to the center of Yamaethin Township which lies 40 miles (64 km) away. They will continue towards the capital on Tuesday.

A Moehti Moemi resident told The Irrawaddy on Monday that the miners left the area that morning.

“The gold miners planned to go with trucks but the number two gate did not allow them to cross, therefore, they had to walk,” she said. “But some people who had motorbikes have used them to travel.”

Moehti Moemi Monastery Abbot U Sandaw Batha and 10 other monks from the area are also accompanying the miners on the march.

Tens of thousands of gold miners began protesting in the first week of June after the Myanmar National Prosperity Public Company (MNPPC) told them to halt mining in the 6,000-acre Moehti Moemi area.

The company reached a verbal agreement with around a thousand small mining companies and individual miners in December 2011 which allowed them to excavate gold from the area for the length of its five-year government contract.

MNCCP is contracted to supply the Ministry of Mining with a certain amount of gold, while the smaller companies would receive half the ore that they excavated and contribute the rest.

But MNPPC has apparently since reneged on the deal and told miners to work for the company directly instead. All mining operations were halted on May 5 in an apparent effort to attract larger investments from international mining companies.

The gold miners postponed their protest at the weekend while an inspection to measure the feasibility of work recommencing was carried out by MNPPC. However, it now appears the company has decided against reopening the pits.

The marching miners, who arrive in Yamaethin on Monday evening, will stay at the Shwe Myay Tin Pagoda seven miles from town for the night before advancing the 48 miles (78 km) to Naypyidaw on Tuesday, according to worker activist Thaung Htike.