Interview: U La Min Win
What steps should be taken to address the information gap on Myanmar’s geological potential?
U LA MIN WIN: Although there are a handful of world-class deposits, most of the country is underexplored. To bridge this gap, more regional-scale exploration activities could be funded privately or by the government, to provide information to investors. In addition, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MNREC) is currently developing a cadastre supported by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). This development will allow investors to better access data and make concession applications, whilst strengthening the ministry’s ability to administer and regulate concessions, taxes and royalties.
What challenges do companies face when undertaking geological mapping and geophysical surveys in remote regions of the country?
LA MIN WIN: As in all remote regions access can be an issue. This is due to underdeveloped road infrastructure and a lack of commercial helicopter services to conduct regional exploration. In addition, access for foreigners is restricted in limited parts of the country due to security concerns. To overcome these challenges significant investment in portable geophysical and drilling equipment, as well as the training of geological teams, will be necessary. This will enable companies to access the most remote parts of Myanmar.
How do you assess the potential for foreign investment in the country’s mining sector?
LA MIN WIN: The mining sector has a long history in Myanmar and will continue to be important as the country’s economy develops. The foreign companies currently investing in Myanmar’s exploration sector understand the highly prospective nature of Myanmar’s geology and are pursuing first-mover advantage. The MNREC is keen to encourage responsible investment in the mining sector, seeking technically proficient, financially reliable investors with strong reputations. The government has provided clarity to investors through the mining law amendments of December 2015. In particular, these amendments clarified options for fiscal arrangements, providing options for production, profit and equity-sharing agreements between investors and the government. To encourage foreign investment in the mining sector, the legal and fiscal arrangements need to be regionally and globally competitive.
To what extent can Myanmar’s EITI contribute to improving environmental management?
LA MIN WIN: The EITI has helped to create awareness of the importance of transparency and accountability in the mining sector. It has encouraged education about the benefits of environmental responsibility. For example, the Myanmar Gems Enterprise, under the MNREC, recently commissioned comprehensive environmental management plans (EMPs) for the jade mining region in Kachin State. The EMPs will be applicable for all mining companies, providing instructions on protecting the environment, ensuring mine safety and enhancing the life quality of mining communities.
Can the Bawdwin mine recover its position as one of the world’s largest sources of lead and silver?
LA MIN WIN: The Bawdwin Mine is one of the most famous mines in Myanmar and remains a world-class mineral deposit. Bawdwin was mined as far back as the 15th century before the development of a large underground mine by Burma Corporation in the early 1900s. The mine was destroyed in the Second World War, nationalised and it then progressively lacked investment in development and exploration. A recent resource definition programme included the first modern exploration of the project site. The Bawdwin Mine has the potential to be a landmark project not just for the mining sector but for the whole of Myanmar.
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