NAYPYITAW — The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation said on Friday that it is planning to arrest the chairman of a gold mining company and that a lawsuit has been opened against him for abusing a mining law.
The ministry has opened the lawsuit against U Soe Tun Shein, chairman of National Prosperity gold mining company, at Yamethin police station and police are preparing to arrest him as the offense deems him not eligible for bail.
“The police went to Yangon to arrest him but he was not there. If he does not show up, the police will issue an arrest warrant in accordance with the law,” U Than Dain, the ministry’s director general, told journalists at an event in Naypyitaw on Friday.
The ministry’s No. 2 Mining Enterprise issued a notice in a state-run newspaper on Aug. 13 stating that the mining company needs to return the mining license to the enterprise, as the company has failed to pay a required total of 2,032 kilograms of gold.
The ministry said that the gold mining company National Prosperity is still mining in the Moehti Moemi area of Yamethin Township, thus the lawsuit was opened.
In addition, the director general said the ministry has submitted the case to the Office of the Attorney General, in order to get the gold which is still owed by the company, in accordance with the law.
However, the company refused accusations from the ministry, saying the company is not mining but doing maintenance work on the machinery.
“We are not mining as they accused. We did only the maintenance of the machines. This is nothing related to our chairman either, and we’ve already explained this to the ministry,” said U Tun Aung Soe, director general of National Prosperity gold mining company.
Additionally, the company said that only 163 kilograms of gold remains to be paid and they have submitted an appeal to the ministry and the enterprise for permission to mine after the remaining gold has been paid.
“The license was submitted together with the appeal to the Union high court. Since the case still remains at the high court, we cannot give back the license. We also sent an appeal to the ministry on Aug. 17 to understand the situation and we will hand back the license once the high court makes a decision,” he explained.
The Irrawaddy was unable to reach the chairman of the gold mining company, U Soe Tun Shein. When asked, company staff said that he was traveling but did not disclose further details about him.
The National Prosperity gold mining company was granted permission to mine for gold in Moehti Moemi in Mandalay Region in 2011, with the agreement to pay about 5.57 tons of gold to the state over an initial five-year term.
In 2013 the company received a three-year extension to the payment period and was given permission to continue mining in the area for another 17 years under a production-sharing contract once it paid the full 5.57 tons.
According to the No. 2 Mining Enterprise, the company has failed to pay the monthly installments totaling 2,032 kilograms of gold since 2013. As a result, the ministry ordered the company to suspend operations at the end of 2017.
As the company has continued mining in spite of the order, the ministry revoked its mining license in February and terminated the agreements with the company in May this year.
In March, the ministry filed a case against the company’s chairman, U Soe Tun Shein, at the Yamethin Township police station under the Mines Law for continuing to operate after being ordered to stop and for failing to hand back the mining license.
Punishment for these offenses is up to seven years’ imprisonment, a 50,000 kyats ($33) fine, or both and the company will never get permission to mine any minerals in the future.
Additional reporting and translation from Burmese by Zarni Mann.