Myanmar’s Civilian Govt to Grant Mining Licenses for ‘Ruby Land’

By The Irrawaddy 18 January 2023

Myanmar’s civilian National Unity Government (NUG) is planning to raise funds through mining licenses, according to its planning, finance and investment minister U Tin Tun Naing.

The minister revealed the plan to grant licenses for local and foreign businesses to operate gem mines in Mandalay’s Mogok Township, also known as “Ruby Land”, during a press conference on Sunday.

“We are doing this to bring justice after [gem mining] was monopolized by a handful of ruling elites in successive periods. Those businesses only served the interests of military dictators, so we are fixing this to serve the interests of the people, and to ensure the country and its citizens get what they deserve,” said the minister.

The NUG’s national resource management body will invite expressions of interest from local and foreign investors, said U Tin Tun Naing.

The move is among NUG projects scheduled for implementation between September 2022 and September 2023 to support the revolution against military rule, he said.

The NUG’s resource management body will consult with environmental and legal experts and refer to international procedures in granting mining licenses, said the minister.

Mining companies awarded licenses thanks to their ties to the Myanmar military have never implemented environmental management plans for their mines in the area, said NUG electricity and energy minister U Soe Thura Tun.

This was partly because the companies were mostly granted short-term licenses, encouraging them to exploit resources to the maximum while ignoring environmental impacts, he added. The NUG on the other hand plans to grant long-term contracts to help encourage more systematic and less environmentally harmful mining, he said.

“While we aim to raise funds for the revolution, we also want to systematize the mining of natural resources,” said U Soe Thura.

The mines will be operated as public-private partnerships with a 51 percent stake for the government and 49 percent for the private partner.

He added that the licensed mines will start operating after the military dictatorship is ousted, with more details of the project to be released soon.

A gems merchant in Upper Myanmar said no registered mining companies are currently operating in Mogok due to the lack of security and rule of law, but individuals and groups of miners are working on a small scale.

The Ta’ang National Liberation Army, and the NUG’s People’s Defense Force armed wing are active in areas surrounding Mogok, but junta troops control the town, said residents.

Known locally as the Land of Gems, the area comprises Mogok, Moemeik, Twin Nge, and Thabeikkyin where mines produce rubies, sapphires, peridot and other precious stones.

The parallel civilian government has so far raised more than US$100 million to fund its revolution against the military regime, according to the NUG’s planning and finance ministry.

The funds were raised by selling treasury bonds, auctioning off military-linked properties including two mansion residences of junta boss Min Aung Hlaing, and selling yet-to-be-built apartments on military-linked land. The NUG said buyers will be handed keys to their properties once the junta is toppled. The NUG has also collected tax revenue totaling 3 billion kyats in the areas of the country it controls.