Australia-based mining company granted three blocks

Australian PanAust Group has been granted exploration licences for three mining blocks in Myanmar, becoming the first foreign firm to receive the green light after a new mining law was passed last December.

A subsidiary of Chinese state-owned Guangdong Rising Assets Management, PanAust will have the right to explore and produce mineral resources in Hel Chain, Pin Hin Hka and Nam Awl in Sagaing Region.

The company’s Myanmar subsidiary, Wuntho Resources, will build a package of tenements covering 1400 square kilometres in the project’s first phase.

Sagaing is considered highly prospective for copper and gold, the company said.

“We are one of the first and certainly the largest ‘Western’ company to have been granted an exploration licence in Myanmar,” said PanAust managing director Fred Hess.

“Our focus for the upcoming year is to carry out geochemical sampling and mapping to identify potential drill targets by year end.”

The company will establish a permanent office in Banmauk township in upper Myanmar and will continue to consider other potential exploration opportunities, he said.

PanAust holds an 80 percent interest in Myanmar-registered Wuntho Resource, while Myanmar Energy Resources Group International (MERG) holds the other 20pc.

The Ministry of Mines has granted 2410 licences for mining projects up to 2015, most of which are localised small-scale projects that use traditional mining methods.

“Currently only five of the 15 foreign investments into mining are in the production stage. The other 10 are in the study period,” said U Win Htein, director general of the Department of Mines under the mining ministry.

The ministry had approved 2770.81 square kilometres of land for mining projects until the end of the 2015 financial year.

A total of 63 mineral commodities have been recorded in over 2000 locations around the country according to the Department of Geological Survey and Mineral Exploration under the Ministry of Mines.

The Union parliament approved a new mining law in December 2015, though new rules and regulations have not yet been drafted.

Foreign investment into the mining sector was US$2.9 billion up to the end of May 2015 according to the Myanmar Investment Commission.

However, until the new law was passed last December, foreign investment was limited to large companies. This restriction, along with myriad other factors, stymied foreign interest. Last fiscal year, FDI into mining was just $6.2 million through a single project, compared with $3.22 billion into the oil and gas sector.

Wuntho Resources has been looking for projects over the past two years, including in Sagaing Region, director Richard Taylor previously told The Myanmar Times. “Wuntho Resources is determined to start off on the right foot here in Myanmar,” he said in an emailed statement, adding that the company will look for ways to partner with stakeholders such as NGOs and local communities.

This will be important – in the past, mining companies in Sagaing Region have clashed with local residents over a wealth of issues, including a lack of transparency, land use and environmental damage.

 

Source: Myanmar Times

 

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