Interview: Dr Myint Aung
Recent reforms have made Myanmar a desirable investment destination. How can the country attract further foreign investment to the mining sector?
DR MYINT AUNG: Extensive measures have been put in place to encourage sustainable development, and this should be able to result in benefits for both investors and the government. These efforts have been documented in the new mining law. For example, minimising mineral losses has been identified as a priority. It is vital that we utilise advanced technologies that international companies can bring to the table in order to attain this goal. I believe that these objectives and new regulations will promote future exploration projects and increased foreign investment that will lead to more job opportunities and contribute to the social and economic progress of local communities.
How do infrastructure gaps impede the potential of the sector? What kind of development can we expect over the coming years?
AUNG: The lack of advanced technology, human resources, capacity restraints and insufficient investment have all impeded the potential growth of the mining sector in Myanmar. However, over the coming years various infrastructure projects throughout the country will have a positive impact on all relevant sectors, such as an improved power grid, technology investments, and greater attention given to the development of human resources. These advances will not only bolster the mining sector but also the wider economy.
How would you assess the level of environmental regulation in Myanmar's mining sector? What more can be done to attain international standards?
AUNG: Measures are in place to raise the standards under which resources are mined. Our industries have suffered from international isolation and underwent a decline in environmental standards due to many years of sanctions. However, we remain optimistic about the future. For instance, the Myanmar Environmental Law was enacted on March 30, 2012, while the Environmental Rules will be enacted by the end of 2014. Furthermore, the environmental impact assessment procedure will be enacted before the end of the year. These initial steps of reform show our dedication to the protection of the environment and our resources. The Myanmar Mines Law was promulgated in September 1994 and amendments have been submitted to the parliament, which we expect to be passed this year. These amendments aim to protect the environment from any damage that has resulted from mining operations.
The Ministry of Mines is adopting the global standards that the World Health Organisation, the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank and ASEAN have promoted. These objectives have been laid out in the Myanmar Environmental Standard draft, which was prepared by the Ministry of Science and Technology as well as the Department of Environmental Conservation. While we still have some way to go before international standards are achieved, we believe that these amendments to the current law and other such initiatives will drive the modernisation of the mining sector.
While it is undergoing reform and seeking to expand, what lessons can Myanmar's mining sector draw from the experience of neighbouring countries?
AUNG: We can draw a number of lessons from the successful and unsuccessful experiences that other countries have had with their own mining operations. This would help us develop a better idea of which steps we should take and which we ought to avoid.
Some important lessons would include how to minimise environmental impacts and how to extract and utilise mineral resources more efficiently and sustainably, for the benefit of the state and ordinary citizens alike. We can study the mineral sectors in developed countries such as Australia and Canada, as well as developing countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Mongolia, in addition to considering the examples of Japan and Korea with regards to environmental conservation.
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