Myanmar (Burma): Mining, Minerals and Fuel Resources

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This article was updated on the 11th November 2018.

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, 000 sq miles. It also has a phenomenally rich biodiversity.

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

In 2015, the first openly contested elections since 1990 were conduction in Myanmar. In this election, the National League for Democracy won the majority, Win Myint was elected as the President, while Aung San Suu Kyi was elected as the State Counsellor.

Overview of Resources

A wide range of useful minerals are naturally present in this country, such as 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, industrialized exploitation of the mineral resources in the absence of correctly enforced sustainability measures and policies is putting the diverse environment of the country 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, in 2016, the US Department of state estimated a total export value of USD$15.7 billion, of which a significant proportion 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.

These Figures are estimates based on statistics from Burmese Government's Central Statistical Organization, December 2010.

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. Jade export in the financial year 2014–2015 was more than $1 billion; however, this export fell in consecutive years. Precious and semi-precious stones accounted for around 206 million dollars of export. 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 to other industries in the country.

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

Metals

Mineable metals, such as gold, silver, copper, tin, tungsten, zinc, and nickel 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

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 40% of export of Myanmar. It is the 39th biggest producer of natural gas currently and exported around $6 billion of petroleum in 2016. A pipeline that connects Myanmar and China delivers gas from the Bay of Bengal and offshores sites if Myanmar to China. Five countries, including China, Myanmar, South Kora, and India have invested in this project.

In 2013, another natural gas pipeline that connected Shwe field complex, Bay of Bengal, to Yunnan province, southwest China was completed. The cost of this project was estimated to be US$2 billion.

In 2013, around 560 coal mines were estimated to be present in Myanmar, and the annual yield of coal was about 700,000 metric tonnes. However, in 2017, the government decided to stop issuing new coal mining licenses due to adverse effects on the environment.

Investment

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

The foreign spending decreased by 14% at the end of the financial year in 2017.  There was also a dip in the investment in transportation and communications areas by almost two-thirds. The investment in tourism sector fell by 56%, while the investment in the power sector fell by 55%.

The persecution of Rohingya by the military, which was criticized by the international community, may also have caused a dip in the foreign investment.

Legislations have been passed by the Myanmar parliament which has reduced the restrictions on foreign investment from August 2018.

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.


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