Myanmar’s gold production has been steadily picking up and could become soon a key driver for the country’s economic growth, but the increasing number of miners suffering from lung diseases has forced them to demand a swift approval of a mining law, currently being discussed in parliament.
In a special report DVBTV English shows the precarious conditions gold miners face daily, from inadequate equipment to antiquated practices.
“We break the rocks with high pressured guns, but breathe the small particles that come from breaking the stone. We contract lung infections that we call ‘gun disease’,” a Tagon Gold Mine-1 worker in the Mandalay division of Myanmar told DVBTV.
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. Previously, Myanmar produced just 100 kg of gold each year, but privatization and an easing of international sanctions have allowed that number to double, Global Post reported in November.
Authorities, companies and the ministry of mines have seen potential in the industry and are now trying to pursue foreign investment for the sector. The goal is to reduce poverty rate from 26% to 16% by exporting gold beginning next year. But the added demand means an increased need for manpower, working hours and medical support, which a mining law could guarantee, say the miners.
Although undeveloped, the country is home for vast and untouched reserves of highly demanded minerals and metals, such as gold, tungsten, copper and even some oil. It is also known by its precious stones and lithium reserves.
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.
If approved, Myanmar’s mining law would make it easier for foreign investors to tap into the country’s emerging mining sector.
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Image courtesy of Juan Pablo Cardenal and Heriberto Araujo/The Velvet Rocket