The Irrawaddy

Govt Gives Gold Mine Operator Final Warning to Hand Back License

People pan for gold in a river in Myitkyina Township, Kachin State, in January 2011.

YANGON — The government has given one of the largest gold mine operators in Mandalay Region a final warning to hand back its license for failing to make its payments or be blacklisted and prosecuted.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation terminated the license of the National Prosperity gold mining company on May 17 after the firm, which operates in the Moehti Moemi region of Mandalay’s Yamethin Township, failed to hand over the remaining gold payments it owes the state.

The ministry’s No. 2 Mining Enterprise published a notice in state-run newspapers on Monday stating that the firm had not handed back the license even after being asked in writing six times.

“If the company fails to return the license in two weeks, it won’t be allowed to do any business by the ministry and legal actions will also be taken.” the notice said.

National Prosperity, headed by local businessman U Soe Tun Shein, was granted permission to mine for gold in the area in 2011 under then-President U Thein Sein’s administration, agreeing to pay about 5.57 tons of gold to the state over an initial five-year term. In 2013 the company requested and received a three-year extension to the payment period, said the Natural Resources Ministry’s director general, U Than Daing.

He said the company was also allowed to continue operating the mine for another 17 years under a production-sharing contract once it paid the full 5.57 tons.

He said the company has failed to pay the monthly installments it agreed to in 2013 since April 2016, now totaling 1,270 viss (2,032 kg) of gold.

The ministry first ordered the company to suspend operations on Nov. 8, 2017. As National Prosperity Gold continued to operate and miss its payments, the ministry revoked its license on Feb. 17 and terminated its agreement with the company on May 17.

U Than Daing said the company had no choice but to return the license now that the agreement was terminated.

“It is not because they couldn’t afford to pay. They had the production, but they didn’t pay,” he said.

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.

U Than Daing said the ministry would also prosecute the company to recover the owed payments.