Workers at Tagon Gold Mine-1 in Mandalay division are calling on the government to adopt a Mining Law, which is currently being discussed in parliament.
Gold miners at Tagon have sent a letter to President Thein Sein urging him to adopt the bill into law to implement safety standards and the protection of miners’ rights.
“There are around 900,000 to one million gold miners across the country according to our estimation,” said Kyaw Moe, Chairman of the Labour Office at Tagon Gold Mine-1. “In order to ensure fairness for the miners under legal provisions it is necessary to have a Mining Law.”
If adopted, the Mining Law would make it easier for foreign investment in the country’s mineral sector.
In May 2012 the Ministry of Mining ordered the suspension of small-scale mining operations at the Moehti Moemi gold mine in Mandalay’s Yamethin Township, leaving thousands of miners jobless.
The move was to make way for mining conglomerate, Myanmar National Prosperity Public Company Limited, who won a mining tender, to be able to operate in the area and to attract larger investments from international mining companies.
Since then workers at the Moehti Moemi mine have staged mass protests against the government’s order.
The Tagon gold miners want to ensure the same thing does not happen to them. They are demanding that the law provides a right for them to operate small mining plots.
“There are more and more companies taking over the mines and we have nowhere to work,” said gold miner Tun Hla. “We would like to have our own business. We know where the gold is but wherever we go to dig, the companies will follow and bid for the plots at auctions.”
He went on to say that if private companies moved in, miners who previously ran their own small-time mining businesses would have to work as manual labourers for the company.
Over 1000 workers from Tagon have signed a petition calling for the adoption of the Mining Law.