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ALTHOUGH conventional wisdom dictates that gold is difficult to find, the precious metal has been discovered m many regions in both upper and lower Myanmar, awaiting exploitation by private hunters who take a practical approach to their search.

According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Mines, there are 144 areas in Myanmar where gold exploration has been undertaken with official permission.

Gold is extracted from gravel or from crushed rock by dissolving it either in mercury (the amalgam process) or in cyanide solutions ( the cyanide process). Some ores, especially those in which the gold is chemically combined with tellurium, must be roasted before extraction. The gold is recovered from the solution and melted into ingots.

There are two different kinds of gold deposits: primary and placer.

Primary deposits consist of areas where gold was originally formed in the ground, such as the Kyaukpatho mine in Kawlin, Sagaing Division.

Placer deposits occur when gold is swept from primary deposits by water and settles on the banks and beds of rivers, streams and creeks. The biggest known placer deposits in Myanmar occur along the Ayeyarwaddy and Chindwin rivers.

The Ministry of Mines issues three types of permits that allow private interests to seek gold in Myanmar.

The first allows families to run small-scale operations using conventional mining methods. Applicants are granted one or two acres and are not allowed to use machines for exploration.

The second type is for cottage industries, which account for the majoriry of gold exploration in the country. Such operations are given 150 acres but are not allowed to use heavy equipment, such as excavators, bulldozers or refinery plants.

The third type of permit is for heavy industrial exploration on 2000 acres of land. Such permits have been granted only to the Ivanhoe Company near Yamethin in Mandalay Division.

Private citizens who are granted permits must sign an agreement requiring them to turn over 30 per cent of their refIned gold to the Ministry of Mines.

Once the permit is granted, the hunter must get down to the risky business of searching for the precious metal.

"Private gold hunters are like any other hunter and need to be familiar with the environment in which they are searching. They must study the geology and be familiar with the types of ore deposits in the area," said U Aung Kyin, the managing director of Explorers Consulting Ltd.

"A practical gold seeker must be intelligent and optimistic, and he also be adventurous," he said.

For government and corporate operations, good organisation is of the utmost importance. Successful exploration depends on good strategy and the utilisation of skilled operational tactics by upper-level management, he said.

While larger operations can take advantage of advanced technology that has steadily increased gold production worldwide, traditional gold hunters must rely on experience and luck, as well as basic tools like chopping hoes and mattocks.

Traditional gold seekers ply their trade along river banks, especially in upper Myanmar.

"Some private companies can produce from 5 to 10 viss (one viss equals 3.6 pounds) of gold, monthly in areas like the Thabeikyin gold field in Mandalay Division," said U Aung Kyin.

On the international market, one ounce of gold is worth US$400, but the price has risen precipitously over the past few decades.

Two-thirds of the total worldwide production of gold comes from South Africa, the United States, Australia, China, Canada and Russia.

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Copyright © 2006 by Myanmar Gems.
Prepared by DPS. Last Modified: 23 May, 2008 (slm)

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