believe that a person's success is determined by the amount
of work they do and the effort they put into it. According
to the Buddha, the three essential elements for a successful
life are luck, wisdom and diligence. Without proper effort,
nobody can achieve their goals.
In the ruby mining town of Mogok, however, effort of ten
bears little fruit. It is a place where most most people
believe that success is determined by luck within a fi
rather than by hard I work.
There are many ruby miners in town who dedicate themselves
to the virtues of hard work and full effort, and yet fortune
does not smile on them. They are still waiting for good luck
to come their way.
U Tun Naing is a 40-year-old man who started searching
rubies when he was a teenager. He now works as an
experienced twin sara (pit boss) at a local mine, and he
continues to struggle to make his dream of uncovering riches
"I have some shares at the ruby mine, and I also manage the
mining process. I have been a mine worker as well as a pit
boss," he said.
The pit boss plays an important role. He must explore the
mine first, facing any possible dangers before anyone else.
If he does not have much experience or knowledge about ruby
mining, the mining process will not go smoothly or safe. The
more expertise a pit boss has, the greater the prospects of
"When I was mine worker I never faced serious, danger
because my pit boss was an expert on gravel structure and
the natural 'processes of ruby mines. Now I try to b$,a good
pit boss for my workers," he said.
"Long-term experience is essential to be a good pit boss.
And it is necessary to have a keen interest in ruby mining,
an eagerness to take risks and a complete lack of fear,"
said U Tun Naing, who was employed for a mine worker for
nearly 20 years before landing a job as a pit boss.
"Exploring a mine is dangerous. There is a constant danger
of mine collapse when you are working underground," he said.
U Hla Myint, an ex-ruby mine worker in his 50s, pointed to a
scar on his cheek and said, "This scar is a reminder of the
time that I barely escaped death from t1le collapse of the
ground while I was working in a mine." Another mining danger
is the scar-city of air, a problem that grows more acute as
workers dig deeper.
"If we don't notice the lack of air in time, we can
suffocate," U Hla Myint said.
"As you can imagine, we risk our lives by digginglS0 f~ or
more down into the earth, and working inside a narrow,
grave-like pit the entire day," he said.
"When miners find byone, an ore layer that indicates the
possible proximity of precious stones, we get very excited.
But byone has become increasingly rare as the mines are
exhausted, so now we must dig down to 200 feet or more,
increasing the danger further," U Tun Naing said.
Over the years mine workers have developed a number of
superstitions to help them face these dangers.
For example, conversations about the Buddha and Dhamma are
forbidden in the mines. Instead of the word kyar (tiger),
workers must use taw kaung ( animal that lives in the
jungle), and mwye (snake) must be substituted with ah kaung
shay (long creature).
Eating eggs, peanuts and pork, as well as wearing shoes,
must be avoided underground. Miners must also, refrain from
using foul language that may offend is a the spirits.
Furthermore, pregnant women are not when allowed to come
near I ruby mines or byone.
The strongest belief, however, is that one should pray to
Mogok Bo Bo Gyi, the = chief of the seven spirits of Mogok.
"Many people in Mogok still hold these beliefs, but some
workers from other regions of the country do not accept
them," U Tun Naing said.
"I a1ways keep the five Thilas (Buddhist precepts) and pray
to the Buddha everyday. I believe this works because I have
never faced any serious danger in ruby mines," he said.
U Tun Naing has not faced danger, but he has not had success
in finding precious stones either.
"It all depends on luck. I have been working hard for about
25 years, but I haven't found any precious stones. Some
people who are favoured by fortune might dig up a big ruby
worth millions of kyats within a few weeks of beginning
their search. So luck and fate are very important in gem
trading and mining in Mogok," he said.
"For a long time I was depressed about not finding any
precious stones, so I got married in my early 30s. Now I
have two children," he said with a smile.
Though he is absolutely absorbed by his work in Mogok, he
said he does not want his children to become involved in
mining or any other aspect of the ruby business.
"This kind of work is not very promising. We must rely on
invisible fortune all the time. So when my children grow up,
I want them to be involved in a business that can provide a
regular income," U Tun Naing said.
"When I started working in this business, I dreamed of
getting rich like others. And now it's been nearly 25 years,
and I am not rich yet. But the dream has not died. As long
as I am working, I have a chance to achieve my hopes, but if
I stop I have no hope at all and my life will become
boring," he said.
U Hla Myint, who stopped ruby mining a few years ago, said
he intended to get back into the business again next year.
" As long as I can work, I want to keep going. I think gem
mining is the most exciting job in Mogok, " he said.
Young men travel to Mogok from all over Myanmar with similar
dreams of adventure and wealth. Members of one group that
traveled from the Shwe Bo region in upper Myanmar said they
all hoped to strike it rich.
Mine owners proyide workers from other areas with shelter,
food and even healthcare. The workers keep 20 per cent of
the value of any gems they find.
Others are paid monthly salaries to work at new ruby mines I
where the potential to find precious stones is not very
One local inhabitant said there were about 700 ruby mines in
Many are in town, while others are more isolated, five miles
or more away, surrounded by high mountains and alive with
workers, pit bosses and business owners.
But the entire region is filled with hopes, dreams and
disappointment, all presided over by the voices of heavy