Interview: Dr Myint Aung
What investment opportunities have opened up within the mining sector following recent reforms?
DR MYINT AUNG: In accordance with the economic objectives set by the government, foreign firms are welcome to take part in exploration and mining activities. Myanmar is endowed with natural resources, such as metallic minerals, non-metallic minerals and gemstones. The high potential of minerals such as nickel remains unrealised. So, along with many other metallic minerals, nickel extraction will play a major role in the growth of the domestic mining sector.
China, for example, has had a significant role in our country’s mining sector since the previous government and during the US and EU sanctions. 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 whilst fostering foreign investment.
What needs to be done before a foreign company can commence mining operations in Myanmar?
MYINT AUNG: Foreign companies have to send a letter of courtesy to the Ministry of Mines through their respective embassy in Myanmar. The union minister, or responsible officials, will discuss investment opportunities, with a particular focus on the mineral commodity and targeted areas. Once a technical discussion has taken place, a site visit can be arranged. A recommendation letter from the respective embassy, letter of undertaking, tentative site visit schedule and passport copies are required for submission to the Ministry of Mines two weeks in advance. Following the site visit, if the party has decided to invest in Myanmar, a proposal should be submitted to the Ministry of Mines, with copies sent to all relevant departments. Mineral prospecting, exploration and feasibility studies are the responsibility of the Department of Geological Survey and Mineral Exploration. Other mining enterprises are responsible for the operation and production stages.
After receiving approval from the Ministry of Mines and submitting all required documentation, the proposal and agreement draft are sent to the Myanmar Investment Commission for an investment permit.
Given Myanmar’s large rural population, what role will mining play in the development of those regions?
MYINT AUNG: Increased investment will naturally bring about more job opportunities, socio-economic development and the transformation of Myanmar into an industrialised country. With the right measures in place, local mineral deposits can dramatically improve people’s lives. I believe mining has an important role to play in the development of rural areas, by assisting in the reduction of poverty, helping the country transition to a stable economic state and allowing it to become a more prosperous member of the region.
How is the government ensuring that the development of Myanmar’s mining sector is sustainable?
MYINT AUNG: The Ministry of Mines has several goals in ensuring the sustainable development of the industry. We must ensure that we fulfil domestic requirements and increase exports, and we are therefore actively promoting local and foreign investment in mineral resources. A key objective is to minimise mineral losses and be as effective as possible when it comes to production strategies that utilise advanced technologies.
It is vital that we actively develop the private sector in mining and that, while doing so, we ensure the protection and conservation of the environment. The fact that Myanmar is conveniently located between China and India, both major consumers of raw materials, will naturally assist in the sustainable development of the local industry. With the appropriate governance in place we aim to develop the sector in a way that is equitable, environmentally sustainable and maximises benefits for Myanmar’s people. Holistic development is of the utmost importance. Future investment in infrastructure will help boost both production and export potential.
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