NAYPYITAW — The Lower House approved a proposal to systematize and effectively regulate Myanmar’s extraction of gems and minerals on Monday.
The proposal was tabled by lawmaker U Kyaw Lwin Aung representing Magwe’s Sidoktaya Township and endorsed by the Union minister for Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation U Ohn Win.
“The government will make sure the country’s future generations can enjoy gems and mineral resources for a long time,” said U Ohn Win, adding that it was hard to manage excavations in conflict areas.
Lawmakers criticized the use of heavy machinery in mining, citing environmental degradation.
“Illegal mining and the failure of mining companies to obey government rules have sent products into the black market, and the government is losing a large amount of funds in unrealized taxes,” military representative Maj Myat Ko told the Lower House.
The National League for Democracy government suspended granting and extending mining licenses in April last year.
Lawmaker U Nai Ngan Kyaw of jade-rich Mogok Township in Mandalay Region suggested two separate laws should be enacted for jade and gems, in a separate bill tabled in the Lower House.
“The government should hold public consultations with locals when granting mining licenses. If authorities just look at the site on the map and grant the license, the process won’t be transparent,” said U Nai Ngan Kyaw, adding that negligence in granting licenses had caused many land disputes.
The law’s proposer U Kyaw Win suggested legitimizing individual prospectors by levying a tax on them.
He also called for a ban on large-scale mining with heavy machinery, saying that it would exhaust all resources in the next 20 years.
Myanmar joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in 2014, becoming the 45th country to ratify EITU.
According to the natural resources and environmental conservation ministry, a total of 2,561 jade and gems mines across seven locations including Lone Khin, Mohnyin, Mogok and Monghsu will see their licenses expire in August, with another 315 mining licenses expiring in September.