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Global jewel market slump forces ruby miners out of work

Mar 11, 2009 (DVB), Gem traders and miners working in two ruby-rich areas have lost their jobs after the global economic crisis hit the Burmese jewel market, locals and gem business owners said.

Mong Hsu (Mai Shu), in Shan state, and Moegok, in Mandalay, are two of Burma's key ruby mining areas.

A local resident in Mai Shu told DVB that most of the mining work there had been stopped by private companies, and also at some government-owned sites, as gem prices in country fell to a level at which expenses for mining work could not even be covered.

"Even the government has stopped digging," he said. "No one would take it as a good idea to dig there, even if they can get mining permits for free now," said the local.

Mai Shu, which has long been known for its wealth of rubies, was heavy populated by gem traders and mine workers from across the country.

About one quarter of the population in Mai Shu have now gone back to their home towns, and most of the remaining are now preparing to abandon their homes and businesses there, the resident said.

"Mai Shu is like a ghost town now," he said. He added that some mine workers had turned to gold mining in other parts of Burma.

Sources from Rangoon's gem business said that Mandalay's 'ruby land', Moegok, was also facing a similar situation.

A Burmese gem trader in Bangkok, Thailand, said Burmese gems are now worth only half the price they used to be. A lot of traders were selling them for low prices out of desperation to keep their cash flow alive.

"Gem prices have dropped about 40 percent of their normal price," he said.

"A lot of customers, mostly Americans, have stopped buying as they've lost their money in banking crisis."

Reporting by Thurein Soe


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