Expiring mine permits should be renewed under new gemstone policy: insiders

Mining permits for some 1000 jade and gemstone blocks across Myanmar will expire this month, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC).

Half the mines are located in Hpakant and Lone Khin and operated by Myanmar Imperial Jade Company, while a third are in Maw Lu- Maw Han, by Chaow Brothers Gemstone Enterprise, Nature Power Gems Company and other miners. The remaining blocks include those in Hkamti, Mogok and Mine Shu, as well as six operated by state-owned Myanmar Economic Corporation, according to MONREC’s announcement.

While the NLD government has suspended the renewal of permits and issuing of new licences for jade and gemstone mining, insiders expect this to change now that new legislation has been enacted. “Now that the laws have emerged, steps will be taken to enforce the rules,” said U Thet Khaing, deputy director of Myanmar Gems Enterprise, referring to the new controversial gemstone law.

According to Global Witness, the law may do little to reform the notoriously corrupt, conflict-tainted, multi-billion dollar jade sector while allowing companies involved in illegal activities and human rights and environmental harms to secure access to the valuable mineral. The NGO criticised that the bill – developed separately from the Gemstones Policy which is “currently in its final stages” – ignores the recommendations of an environmental management plan commissioned by the Ministry for Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation.

Meanwhile, the Gemstones Policy, which took two years to draft with the objective of bringing effective reform to Myanmar’s gem sector, will be soon be approved. The policy addresses issues such as weighing environmental conservation against profits, ensuring sustainable mining of jade and gemstones, developing an even playing field for businesses in the sector and a system of accountability to the state and local communities.

“If there is a strong policy, there will be less damage to the environment and loss of natural resources. If the businesses operate in a systematic way, we will able to conserve these natural resources for many generations to come.” said U Min Min Oo, permanent secretary for MONREC.

Once the new law is enforced and the policy approved, new licenses and permit renewals will be able to continue, he said.

Source: Myanmar Times

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