Overview of Myanmar’s Mining Industry

Capital Naypyidaw
Largest city Yangon (Rangoon)
Official languages Burmese
Recognised regional languages Jingpho
Kayah
Karen
Chin
Mon
Rakhine
Shan
Ethnic groups 68% Burmese
9% Shan
7% Karen
4% Rakhine
3% Chinese
2% Indian
2% Mon
5% other
Religion Theravāda Buddhism
Demonym Burmese / Myanma
Government Unitary presidentialrepublic
President Thein Sein
Vice-Presidents Sai Mauk Kham
Nyan Tun
Legislature Assembly of the Union
Upper house House of Nationalities
Lower house House of Representatives
Area
Total 676,578 km2 (40th)
261,227 sq mi
Population
2014 census 51,486,253 (25th)
Density 76/km2 (125th)
196.8/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2015 estimate
Total $269.996 billion
Per capita $5,207
GDP (nominal) 2015 estimate
Total $73.620 billion
Per capita $1,419
Currency Kyat (K) (MMK)

Overview

  • Myanmar has diverse and largely untapped geological resources which will make mining a significant driver of the country’s economic development in the decades to come.
  • While the government has not allowed for foreign investment into jade and ruby mine, with right investment environment Myanmar has the potential to attract large scale foreign participation in the exploration and extraction of metals, ores and industrial minerals, especially copper, tin, tungsten, nickel and gold.
  • The government of Myanmar once owned all of the country’s gold mines, but following the fall of the junta in 2011, many of them were sold off to private owners.
  • Following five decades of rule by socialist and military governments, under which the country became one of the least developed countries in the world, a new chapter of Myanmar’s engagement with the international community has begun.
  • Mining is the third largest recipient of foreign direct investment in Myanmar. The industry exported approximately US$1.5 billion in the 2013–14 financial year.
  • and one-fifth of children in poor families are not enrolled in primary education.
  • The country’s leadership are hoping that a new law governing the sector, which is expected to be introduced within weeks, will generate newfound confidence among investors, many of whom have held back due to a lack of reliable data and concerns about past practices.
  • Myanmar plans to join the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a global group made up of governments, businesses and other representatives, which aim to improve accountable management of revenues from natural resources.
  • For many years, due to sanctions imposed by the US, EU and other Western countries, China has been the primary investor and buyer in the minerals sector. This has left Myanmar little in the way of flexibility, with no room to exert leverage across the sector.
  • The Minister of Mines Myint Aung advises, “Nowadays, we are in a position to invite investors with advanced technology and reliable investment from any country,”. “Although exploration activities will have many challenges, the mining industry has the potential to drive economic growth, while fostering foreign investment.”
  • Foreign companies able to apply for exploration and exploitation licenses, but are encouraged to partner with Myanmar companies.
  • Energy and Mining account for 55% of Myanmar’s exports.

Major Mineral Producers

Monywa copper project
M Wanbao Copper
Yang Tse Copper
Wanbao Mining Copper
CNMC Nickel China Ferro Nickel
Yan Tse Copper
Simco Song Da Marble
Nobel Gold Hong Kong Gold
North Mining Investment China Ferro Nickel
Pongpipat Tin
Conerstone Resources Australia Zinc

Opportunities

Given the country’s rich geological endowment and central location between China, India and the rest of ASEAN, the Myanmar mining sector is expected to grow in the coming years once investor friendly laws and regulations are enacted. Sizable new exploration and production projects will be approved and get under way in the next few years covering minerals such as copper, tin, tungsten, nickel and gold.

The Minister of Mines advises Myanmar is looking for advanced technology to increase productivity including:

  • Mineral exploration and development
  • Medium to large scale equipment, technology and services
  • Surveying and test drilling services,
  • Environmental technology and services,
  • Vocational training and skills development

Many international mining firms are already visiting Myanmar, studying its geology and applying or preparing to apply for exploration licences. International producers of mining equipment are likewise establishing a presence in anticipation of a boom

  • The new mining law has been drafted and submitted to Parliament in late 2014 has been expected by industry for a number of years. It is anticipated that the new law will bring greater fairness, transparency and efficiency to mining businesses, offering equal treatment for all investors and present them with clear guidelines for pursuing permits and licences
  • The statute and regulations are expected to clarify a number of important concerns of investors including equity and land ownership limits, taxation arrangements and include a raft of incentives.
  • Another advantage of the still impoverished nation is to be conveniently located between China and India, which are international economic growth’s engines and hungry consumers of raw materials.

Challenges

  • Myanmar simultaneously faces three distinct types of challenges in mining project areas — conflict over land, violent opposition to resource exploitation and environmental problems.
  • As with most developing economies, Myanmar faces a number of environmental and infrastructure difficulties for mining companies including monsoonal flooding and road/air access to remote areas
  • The country is currently ranked 150 out of 187 on the United Nations Human Development Index. A quarter of its citizens live below the poverty line, child mortality is higher than in comparable neighbouring countries in the region because of the lack of skilled health workers
  • The early stage of mine development means it still lacks modern surveying techniques
  • Historical geological data is difficult to source
  • Connectivity to outside world- courier/internet needs modernizing
  • Accredited sampling labs are non-existent
  • There is discussion regarding banning exports of ore, coal and gold, to ensure that processing is done in-country.

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