A new mining law that would clarify rules and ease restrictions for foreign investors looking to tap into the lucrative sector, remains frozen in Myanmar’s legislature. The law, which was proposed more than two years ago, is still being debated by Myanmar’s parliament. Lawmakers have not been able to come to a decision on resource sharing.
The delayed law—considered a crucial precursor to foreign investors’ entering Myanmar’s mining sector—highlights the continued difficulty for large foreign companies hoping to extract the country’s rich deposits of minerals and precious stones. Although reforms geared toward opening the country’s once-military-dominated economy to outsiders have been under way for over four years, key components such as the mining law still remain in deadlock. Parliamentarians have not been able to reach a decision on resource sharing, as ethnic minority groups clash with the government over the access they will have to the resources. Many of the country’s richest natural resources are located in ethnic areas. Myanmar’s current mining law was enacted in 1994 and contains little protection for foreign investors and does not allow them to operate in coal and gold mining, forcing them to link up with local companies to operate in these fields.
Under the current law, the government is also entitled to shares of the profits. The government understands that changing the law is important if Myanmar is to continue being an attractive investment destination for natural resources. Mining is the fifth-largest recipient of Foreign Direct Investment in Myanmar, with the majority of investment coming from China and Thailand.