Myanmar (Burma): Mining, Minerals and Fuel Resources

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By G.P. Thomas

Contents

Welcome to Myanmar
Overview of Resources
Industrial Minerals and Gemstones
Metals
Fossil Fuels
Investment
Sources

Welcome to Myanmar

Officially known as the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, Myanmar (still known as Burma in some countries), is a country in South East Asia, with a population of 60.28 Million. It is the 40th largest country in the world, with an area of 677 000sq miles. It also has a phenomenally rich biodiversity-likely to be the richest in Asia.

The national flag of Myanmar

Myanmar is a country of abundant natural resources, and yet is still one of Asia’s poorest countries. This situation is in part due to recent political turmoil.

The current government came to power in March 2011 and is a civilian government led by President Thein Sein.

Myanmar is looking towards an economic resurgence after international relationships have become stronger in recent years.

Overview of Resources

A wide range of useful minerals are naturally present in the country, with rich deposits of tungsten, tin ,zinc, silver, copper, lead, antimony and industrial minerals. Fossils fuels coals, petroleum and natural gas are also abundant. Myanmar is also a world leader in producing gemstones, including jade, diamonds, rubies and sapphires.

The extraction of natural resources has been a source of income for native people for many years and has been undertaken in a sustainable way. In recent years, more industrialised exploitation of the mineral resources of the land has been undertaken, but because of a lack of correctly enforced sustainability measures and policies the diverse environment of the country may be at risk.

The actual monetary value of the material mined in Myanmar is difficult to determine due to the political complications within the country. Some experts think that the amount of money made from the mining sector in Myanmar is heavily downplayed. Based on data available, the US department of state estimated a total export value of USD$8.1bllion, a significant proportion of which was natural resources.

Problems encountered when mining in Myanmar are similar to those seen any mountainous and rural country, in that the mining areas are very remote and difficult to access.

Source of data: US Department Of State. These Figures are estimates based on statistics from Burmese Government's Central Statistical Organization, December 2010 .

Industrial Minerals and Gemstones

Myanmar is the largest jade producer in the world and is one of the only countries in the world to produce jadeite, the highest quality of jade known. According to US department of state figures in 2010, precious and semi-precious stones accounted for around 10% of the total exports of Myanmar. Jade is mostly mined in the north and the Mogok region.

Despite the fame of the precious stones in Myanmar, there is speculation that the industry may be slowing compared relative to other industries in the country.

Rubies, Sapphires and diamonds are also found in significant quantities in Myanmar.

Metals

Mineable metals are abundant and diverse in Myanmar.

Nickel is a growing commodity in Myanmar, and in 2009, China Nonferrous Metal Mining (Group) Co., Ltd contributed around $US80 million to the development of the Tagaung Taung (Dagongshan) nickel mine.

Copper is also present and primarily extracted at the Monywa copper project.

Less common metals are also present in valuable quantities, including tungsten and molybdenum. It has been reported recently that Itochu Corp of Japan has begun feasibility studies into the mining of these metals.

Unfortunately the mining of metals, especially tin, in the delicate coastal regions of the country may be threatening the local environment.

A satellite photograph of the Irrawaddy Delta, Myanmar, one of the world's great rice-producing regions. Image Source: CIA World Factbook.

Fossil Fuels

Coal, oil and natural gas all feature prominently in Myanmar’s wealth of natural resources.

The most important of these is natural gas, which is estimated to account for about 12% of Myanmar’s GDP. It is the 39th biggest producer of natural gas currently and produced around 11.54 billion cubic meters in 2009. There has been significant investment in this area, with the development of the Shwe and Shwephyu reserves just off the Burmese coast, which potentially hold a combined 5.7-10trillion cubic feet of natural gas. A pipeline from these directly to China is due for completion in 2014.

Oil is a fast growing commodity in Myanmar, and an estimate in January 2011 suggested the country had 50million barrels of proven oil reserves, making it the 79th largest reserve in the world.

There are many coal mines across the country, with more than 16 that can be classed as ‘large-scale’. The largest of these mines is Tigyit, an open cast mine that produces 2000 ton of coal a day. The estimated amount of coal left in the country is 270million tons.

Investment

Traditionally, business investment from the wider international community has been slim, with the only major economies investing in the country being China, India and South Korea.

However, investment is likely to increase in the future as prominent politicians, such as Hillary Clinton and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have recently visited the country.

Visiting in December 2011, Hilary Clinton was quoted as saying to the nation "The United States is prepared to walk the path of reform with you if you keep moving in the right direction."

This month, for the first time in 25 years, an Indian prime minister visited the country and over 12 agreements were signed between the countries to improve business links, including better road and air links.

In April this year, the EU reached a first stage plan to heavily relax sanctions on Myanmar.

Japan also appears interested in investing in the country, as Japan recently wrote off Myanmar’s debt and resumed aid to the countries poor regions.

Last month the country introduced a managed floating regime for the Kyat, which may make investment more palatable.

Disclaimer: The Author of this article does not imply any investment recommendation and some content is speculative in nature. The Author is not affiliated in any way with any companies mentioned and all statistical information is publically available.


Sources

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12990565

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bm.html

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/35910.htm

http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/country/2008/myb3-2008-bm.pdf

http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/mcs/2011/mcs2011.pdf

http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/burma-us-china-great-game-part-ii

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/opinion/japans-itochu-joins-the-charge-of-the-mining-brigade-in-to-burma/story-fnciihm9-1226346519578

http://www.thesudburystar.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3571548

http://businesstoday.intoday.in/story/india-myanmar-eye-better-connectivity-and-more-trade/1/184908.html

http://zeenews.india.com/business/news/international/indian-cos-eye-myanmars-untapped-natural-resources_48441.html

Date Added: Jun 1, 2012 | Updated: Dec 12, 2013
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