Heavy metal: U Tay Za’s ‘uranium’ find

Tycoon U Tay Za claims to have purchased uranium samples in upper Myanmar, and will return to the area in the future to search for a deposit.

Speaking at a rare press conference held at his Yangon home on Inya Road on January 19, he said that if a uranium deposit is indeed found, he hopes it is used for the security of the state.

“When open season arrives, I will go and search uranium deposits there,” he said. “Media can accompany me if they wish, but I can’t guarantee what will happen.”

Uranium is a naturally-occurring radioactive element, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. It is weakly radioactive and contributes to low levels of natural background radiation in the environment, and can also be enriched for use in nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons.

Myanmar has signed several international agreements on nuclear proliferation, including the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons in 1992, as well as a number of more recent agreements – though not all have been ratified, according to nonprofit Nuclear Threat Initiative.

U Tay Za said that while he reckons the stones he has purchased are uranium, no organisation or expert has certified it is uranium. He added the uranium may have already made him sick.

“I didn’t suffer too much when I didn’t get food for four days and three nights after surviving a helicopter crash in the mountains,” he said. “This time it is too bad.”

U Tay Za said two villagers sold him the stones on a hill near Ohntone village, three hours’ drive west of Mogok in Mandalay Region. He concluded they were uranium after testing the stones with an apparatus, though they have not yet been certified as such by an independent expert.

Showing slides on a projector, U Tay Za said the land where the stones were found look like it was burnt by fire. Similarly, he said experts had told him that surface of the land over the Letpadaung copper resource does not grow toddy trees.

U Tay Za said that while he wasn’t sure where Myanmar is at regarding UN agreements on nuclear energy, “I want the government to use it for the security of the state”. He added he paid K50 million for the total 3.5 viss uranium sample he acquired. Most of the sample is now with the Ministry of Science and Technology, though the remainder is in his house.

While U Tay Za said he is suffering from signs of radioactive poisoning, the two men who sold him the stones – Ko Aung Naing and Ko Tun Wai – are not seriously affected.

When asked how they feel by journalists, one answered: “We suffer a bit of a problem”. Further questions were cut off as U Tay Za’s staff separated the journalists and the two men.

U Tay Za did not detail his plans for further uranium searches, but said he will not excavate the resource if he finds it.

“If we did excavate, our company will be too notorious,” he said. “I just want to help in the search as the mark of Htoo Company’s 25th anniversary. My father-in-law and brothers-in-law also want to help.”

“Our company is notorious because of coverage by journalists – but actually, we are responsible.”

U Tay Za added it has been difficult to do business for five years, as the government neglects him due to the crony label.


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