RANGOON — The price of a massive unearthed giant jade stone in Hpakant Township, Kachin State, has now been fixed by the government’s Myanmar Gems Enterprise as worth around 7 billion kyats (around US$6 million).
The 210-ton stone was discovered on Oct. 10 at Yadanar Taung Tann Gems Company’s mine, which is operating in a joint venture with the ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation in Sate Mu village, Hpakant Township.
Measuring 19 feet long, 15 feet wide and 14 feet high, it is the biggest stone found in secondary deposits, according to U Min Thu, deputy director of Myanmar Gems Enterprise.
“The government fixed this jade stone’s estimated price at around 7 billion kyats at first sight. They will levy a tax of 20 percent from the miner,” he said.
Yet the assessment is not finished, he explained.
“We will look at this jade later after moving it to Naypyidaw. After cutting and displaying it in the Gems Emporium, we can see its real market price. At that time, the government will take another sale tax from miner,” U Min Thu said.
The initial tax is a pre-sales tax. After the stone is cut and sold, the government will issue another 20 percent sales tax by the customs department, a five percent commercial tax and a three percent service fee for the Myanmar Gems Enterprise.
“Every miner must pay 20 percent tax as soon as [the stone is] uncovered, but this time, this jade stone is massive and I think the miner will pay this tax monthly,” he said.
However, criticism has been raised within the jade industry that the government’s fixed price for the jade stone is too low: some international observers expect it may be worth as much as US$170 million.
U Aung Thein, Mandalay-based jade trader and secretary of the Mandalay Gems Traders Association is one such believer. He told The Irrawaddy that it is not possible to set the true worth of jade and gems after the first impression. The price can only be accurately measured after the cutting process, and through the transformation from a raw product, leading him to suggest that that the price for the stone could be higher.
“I can say this 7 billion kyat [price] is too low, from the point of view of a jade trader. You can see that it could earn at least US$12,000 for a one kilo jade bracelet if the jade quality is really fine,” he said.
“So after this jade stone has been cut and made into jewelry, how much they can earn? It’s so massive,” he said.
According to the director general U Win Htein of the Ministry, a 3,000-ton piece was found in Kachin State in 2000 but was not uncovered, making this current stone the largest piece of jade unearthed in Burma.
A report published in October 2015 by Global Witness, a London-based NGO, revealed that vast revenues from Burma’s trade in jade continue to reach high-ranking military officials and well-connected crony firms.
Entitled “Jade: Myanmar’s ‘Big State Secret,’” estimated that Burma’s jade industry was valued as high as US $31 billion in 2014.
In August, the NLD government announced that all remaining jade mining licenses will expire in 2018, and licenses will only be considered for renewal after the completion of an environmental management plan for jade mining areas of Kachin State.