- Title: Production slowing fast at Myanmar mine that rattled tin market
- Date: 18th October 2016
- Summary: MAN MAW, WA TERRITORY, MYANMAR (RECENT) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF TIN MINE PROJECT AREA AT MAN MAW REGION IN WA TERRITORY TRUCK DRIVING IN TIN MINE'S AREA TRUCK CARRYING TIN ORE DRIVING WA MILITARY OFFICERS STANDING AND TALKING HANDS AND GUN ON WAIST OF WA MILITARY OFFICER (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) DEPUTY LEADER OF THE SURVEY TEAM UNDER WA'S INDUSTRIAL MINING BUREAU, JIA XU BING, SAYING: "The production is now falling sharply. It may be depleted in two to three years." LOGO OF UNITED WA STATE ARMY ON OFFICER'S SHIRT, READING (English): "U.W.S.A" (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) DEPUTY LEADER OF THE SURVEY TEAM UNDER WA'S INDUSTRIAL MINING BUREAU, JIA XU BING, SAYING: "Yes we are concerned, if the mine is to be depleted soon, tax revenue of the Wa state will drop a lot and we need money to develop Wa State." VARIOUS OF TIN ORE MILL RUNNING WORKER WORKING VARIOUS OF TIN ORE BEING PROCESSED WA MILITARY OFFICERS LOOKING ON WA TERRITORY, MYANMAR (RECENT) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF PEOPLE WALKING THROUGH BORDER GATE WITH CHINA WA FEMALE BORDER GUARDS STANDING WA FEMALE SOLDIERS CHECKING DOCUMENT OF WORKER WA BORDER GATE WITH CHINA
- Embargoed: 2nd November 2016 09:19
- Keywords: Myanmar Wa territory tin mine China
- Location: WA TERRITORY, MYANMAR
- City: WA TERRITORY, MYANMAR
- Country: Myanmar
- Topics: Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA00154J6RLX
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:EDITORS PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS EDIT CONTAINS MATERIAL WHICH WAS ORIGINALLY 4:3
Output from a mysterious Myanmar tin mine that has disrupted the global market in the metal is falling sharply and deposits could be depleted in "two to three years," senior mine officials told Reuters.
A surprise discovery of large quantities of tin has propelled the formerly isolated Southeast Asian country into the position of third largest producer of the industrial metal, and contributed to a sharp fall in prices in the last three years.
At 30,000 tons of tin production last year, Myanmar is responsible for nearly all of China's imports of tin ore, a key ingredient for making solder widely used in electronics.
Much of that comes from the Man Maw mine, deep inside the territory controlled by Myanmar's most powerful ethnic armed group the United Wa State Army (UWSA), which boasts some 30,000 soldiers in a secretive, China-dominated statelet the size of Belgium.
Reuters was the first media organization to visit the mine tucked away in cloud-shrouded hills straddling Myanmar's rugged eastern border with China, as the UWSA opens to the world after decades of isolation.
"The production is now falling sharply. It may be depleted in two to three years," said Jia Xu Bing, deputy leader of the survey team under Wa's Industrial Mining Bureau, citing the authority's estimates based on output. He declined to elaborate.
While Reuters could not independently verify the assertions due to the lack of geo-exploration in the self-proclaimed Wa State, interviews with company managers and officials in the mine show signs of slowdown.
"Yes we are concerned, if the mine is to be depleted soon, tax revenue of the Wa state will drop a lot and we need money to develop Wa State," Jia added.
Production from two major mining companies in Man Maw, which covers a 1.5 square miles (4 square km) area, is "close to zero" since last year and they are struggling to find new resource, officials said.
While dozens of tight-knit shacks carrying signs in Chinese promising services from clinics and to karaoke were seen in the Man Maw hills, the number of workers, mostly from China, was halved to about 1,000 today from its peak in 2014.
Several large open pits have been depleted and most mining is underground, resulting in higher costs for mining companies.
Most ore mined now grades between two to three percent on average, a sharp decline from high-grade deposits of more than 10 percent two years ago, they said.
Possibly the least-known part of Southeast Asia where Westerners have had less access than to North Korea, the Wa is accused by the U.S. of running a narcotics empire that has flooded Asia with illegal drugs.
The Wa State used to be one of Myanmar's largest poppy-growing areas, but, under international pressure, the region's leaders say they replaced poppy fields with tea, coffee and rubber plantations more than a decade ago.
The rise of Man Maw also underscores the challenges faced by Myanmar's first democratically-elected government in decades, as its leader Aung San Suu Kyi tries to shore up budget revenue and control the exploitation of the country's mineral riches in areas controlled by ethnic armed groups.
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