MAN MAW, MYANMAR – 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.
Much of it comes from the Man Maw mine deep inside the self-proclaimed “Wa State”, a secretive, China-dominated statelet the size of Belgium controlled by Myanmar’s most powerful ethnic armed group, the 30,000-strong United Wa State Army (UWSA).
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 takes its first tentative steps towards opening to the world after decades of isolation.
“The production is falling sharply. It may be depleted in two to three years,” said Jia Xu Bing, deputy leader of the Wa State Industrial Mining Bureau’s survey team, citing estimates based on output. He declined to elaborate. “We do not have the capacity to do a comprehensive evaluation. We will stop the operations once workers’ safety becomes a concern,” Jia added.
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