Gold Miners Postpone Protest for Inspection

By Nyein Nyein 8 June 2012

Thousands of workers at 12 gold mines in Yamethin Township, Mandalay Division, have postponed protesting against job losses while officials inspect their workplace.

The week-long demonstration began on June 1 when Myanmar National Prosperity Public Company (MNPPC) asked employees to stop working at their goldmines in Yamethin, which lies 78 km north of the capital Naypyidaw.

But despite two attempts at negotiations between the company and miners being held this week, an accord is yet to be reached.

“Project director general U Shwe Moe from the Mining Ministry is leading the inspection of the mines according to yesterday’s meeting between the ministry’s officials, the company and the mine workers,” protest organizer Ko Yauk told The Irrawaddy on Friday.

The miners have been told to wait for two days while MNPPC inspects the premises. “They are checking for the amount of gold in the mines and they said they will respond with their findings tomorrow,” added Ko Yauk.

Officials asked the miners not to protest during the inspection so they have now returned to their homes. Miners are demanding to be allowed to continue working in the mines as before.

MNPPC verbally agreed with smaller mining companies and individual miners in December 2011 that they could excavate gold from the area for the length of its five-year government contract. MNCCPL 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 employees 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.

More than a thousand small gold mining companies used to work in the Moehti Moemi area of Yamethin Township, which boasted more than 6,000 acres of land and around 500,000 people. But many former miners have already left the vicinity and the population has apparently dropped to just 300,000.

Myint Myint Aye, of the Meiktila Public Affairs Network, said she was among a group of 12 journalists and activists that was turned back en route to the Moehti Moemi region on Wednesday evening. They intended to witness the meeting between miners and MNPPC the following day.

“We were asked to show the permission letter from the Ministry of Mining to cross the area,” said Myint Myint Aye, who also contested the April 1 by-election as an independent candidate. “We were stopped at two checkpoints.”

Ministry of Mining-2 Deputy Director-General Khin Lat Kyu told The Irrawaddy that he would not intervene on the issue as the ministry is already under contract with MNPPC.

“As we already gave them a contract, the company is taking care of the issue and no official from the ministry is there,” he said. “There were small mines in the Moehti Moemi area in the past, but now they are all under the control of the company.”