Interview: U Ohn Winn
How would you characterise the evaluation of extractive industries in recent times?
U OHN WINN: In Myanmar the impact of rapid economic development, particularly in extractive industries, is a challenge for sustainable and efficient utilisation of non-renewable, natural resources and the environment. Although extractive industries contributed substantially to the rapid growth of the economy in recent years, we have been facing many challenges in relation to social and environmental issues. In this regard, strong institutions, clear environmental regulations and governance, law enforcement and social safeguards are undoubtedly required, along with social, economic and environment factors to achieve sustainable development. Therefore, Myanmar has been trying to be a Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative-compliant country to ensure transparency and accountability in natural resources exploitation and financial management.
What role do you anticipate small-scale mining will play in the development of the industry?
OHN WINN: The government is putting in place the policy, legal, procedural and governance instruments needed to achieve sustainable development in all sectors. Our government has already prioritised the environment as one of the seven strategies of its National Comprehensive Development Plan 2011-30, with a focus on environmental mainstreaming in the national policy and development agenda.
Small-scale mining can enhance the livelihood of rural people and will play a vital role in the sustainable development of the industry. However, the participation and effort of all stakeholders is needed to avoid negative social and environmental impacts. Thus, our ministry is shaping the small-scale mining industry to improve environmental management and sustainability by legalising small-scale mining; providing training and education assistance; contributing to community development; conducting regular inspections and checks; and ensuring the participation of all stakeholders. Given its important role in the sustainable development of industry, small-scale mining has to invest responsibly and in line with the existing legal frameworks, including the Environmental Conservation Law and the Forest Law.
In your opinion, how have foreign investors reacted to the amended mining laws?
OHN WINN: The amendments clearly mention that foreigners can invest in production-sharing contracts, profit-sharing contracts and equity sharing. Therefore, the amended mining laws are more attractive to foreign investors than before.
Based on the Myanmar Mines Law, the Myanmar Mines Rules will be implemented as a follow-up action. After the completion of the specified legislation, foreign investors in the mining sector will have a more streamlined entry procedure and clearer roadmap, in line with international practices in the field of exploration and mining.
What measures is the ministry taking to address illegal logging activity?
OHN WINN: The Forest Department has taken several measures to combat illegal timber. Law enforcement is fundamental in combatting illegal logging, and we are trying to strengthen this in accordance with existing policies, laws and regulations. Another concerted effort is curbing the tracts and pathways along border areas, waterways, roads and illegal logging hotspots by forestry staff and a task force including the army, police, Customs, and local authorities and communities. To reduce illegal logging activity we must also try to fulfil domestic timber demand through various programmes. Lastly, we must organise a series of forestry extension and environmental education activities to increase public awareness.
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