Artisanal jade mining in Myanmar

Project Active from to Firms

Myanmar is the largest producer of jade in the world, accounting for 95% of global supply. In 2014, one report estimated annual jade production at $31bn - almost half of Myanmar’s GDP in that year - making it by far the country’s most valuable commodity. Yet little is known about the sector and most of its value evades official records and taxation processes.

Despite its potential economic importance and significant socioeconomic impact, little research has been carried out on the opaque jade sector and in particular, artisanal and small-scale mining. Artisanal miners, or ‘hand-pickers’, the vast majority of whom are internal migrants, scavenge large mines and sift through dumping sites searching for remnants of jade to be sold on the informal market. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation estimates that more than 400,000 people work as hand-pickers in northern Myanmar. However, the political economy of this sector and its social and economic impact remains mostly unknown.

IGC, in collaboration with CESD-MDRI, will carry out the first research on artisanal mining in Myanmar. The project will gather information on mining activities, the socioeconomic characteristics of miners, the jade value chain, and the political economy of the sector. The data collection will provide a snapshot of the economic and social impact of artisanal mining as well as contributing to knowledge of how the informal jade industry is structured. The research will be a critical step in setting the foundations for future policies, programmes and research initiatives.

Data will be gathered through administering surveys to hand-pickers across 11 mining areas around Hpakant and Lone Khin townships in Kachin State. To gain a broader picture of the sector key informant semi-structured interviews will also be carried out.