U BA Htay started
mining for rubies 40 years ago and now runs 30 Jay pin twin
( square mining pits with wood supports) and one mine that
he explores using heavy machinery.
The ruby production of his mines for this year is still
unconfirmed as the gravel that was extracted has not yet
Pointing to the packages of the gravel in front of his
house, he said, "Only after washing the gravel will I know
how many rubies have been found."
U Ba Htay said that ruby production will increase only if
new mining areas are exploited.
"The current ruby mining areas are rather exhausted, as we
have been digging them for severa! years," he said.
Because of this, mining in the Mogok area has become
"The ruby mines are getting deeper and deeper, so now we
must use 20 men for the work that formerly 10 men could do,"
said Dr U Kyaw Khine, the director of the Kyaw Win Tun Gem
One difficulty faced by mine owners is the fact that leases
must be extended every three years, forcing them to compete
with other companies to retain their operations or get the
areas they want. Some who have spent years developing mines
suddenly find that they cannot afford the new bidding price
and are forced to drop out of the business.
U Ba Htay described the situation: "When we start a new mine
everything is rough. If it is remote we must build a paved
road and other facilities to ease access. After investing
three years of hard work, just when we are about enjoy the
fruits of our labour, the lease expires and people with huge
amounts of money are waiting to outbid us and take over."
He said that the bidding prices should be negotiated with
the current owner, so that they can get back what they
In response to the rarity of local owners of ruby mines,
officials announced plans to issue permits for about 60
plots open daily to Mogok inhabitants who wish to start
small operations. The fee will be about K500,000 a permit, U
Ea Htay said.
He hoped the program would facilitate a boom in Mogok's ruby
Dr U Kyaw Khaing said thai the production of rubies from
Mogok has decreased during the past six or seven years.
With support from the government miners would be able to
increase production again but would never be able to achieve
the levels of the golden days of Mogok mining seven years
ago, he said.
But he added that the use of explosives to extract rubies
from metamorphic gestone has already helped raise
Permit holders must pay a 20 per cent tax to the government
and are allowed to sell rubies on the local market, but not
in border areas or to foreign markets.
"Most of my stones are sold in Mogok. We 'need money to
continue mining, so it is better to sell them locally;" Dr
Kyaw Khine said.
He said that running a ruby mine was costly. Among the
expenses are workers' wages, food, healthcare and heavy
He said that it was essential to have native ruby mine
experts on hand to oversee operations, "Without them, the
process would not go as smoothly," he said.