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Mawchi tungsten (wolfram) and tin mine, Karenni state, Myanmar

The Molo Women Mining Watch Network and other civil society groups mobilized to halt the further expansion of the centuries-old Mawchi tungsten and tin mines


The history of Myanmar's Mawchi mines spans back over more than two centuries, according to a civil society report by the Molo Women Mining Watch Network (MWMWN) published in 2012 [1]. Small-scale mining activities were first carried out by locals in the early 19th century, who sold the minerals in the local town of Toungoo. When the British heard about the deposits in 1830, agreements with the local ruler of Kyepogyi were made to start tin mining in the area. The high-quality tin and tungsten (wolfram) from the mines was soon sold on world markets and the area became known as “Little England”. The British operated the mines for no less than 112 years (from 1830 to 1942). Workers from China and Nepal were brought in during that time. Over the years, the Mawchi mines turned into one of the most important sources of tungsten, globally. Between 1939-40, the mine produced 60% of total production in Burma, which accounted for about 17.4% of world tungsten output [1,2]. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Mawchi tungsten (wolfram) and tin mine, Karenni state, Myanmar
State or province:Karenni
Location of conflict:Hpasawng Township, Bawlake District
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral ore exploration
Tailings from mines
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Tin; Tungsten (wolfram)
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The mine is operated by the Kayah State Mining Company Limited (KMPC), the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (UMEHL) and the No 2 Mining Ministry [1]. According to a pamphlet, the mine covers about 7,200 acres (ca. 2,914 ha) [5].

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Project area:2,914
Level of Investment:unknown
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:8,150 (local population)
Start of the conflict:2012
Company names or state enterprises:No. 2 Mining Enterprise ME2 (ME2) from Myanmar
Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. (UMEHL) from Myanmar
Kayah State Mining Company Limited (KMPC) (KMPC) from Myanmar - mines operator
Kayah Ngwe Kyae Company from Myanmar - mines operator
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation [MONREC]
Department of Mines
and others
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Molo Women Mining Watch Network - formed by women from the Karenni Women’s Organization, Karenni Social Welfare and Development Centre and Karenni Evergreen Organization, who wanted to research information about the Mawchi tin mines.
Karenni Civil Society Network (KCSN)
Karenni Social Development Center (KSDC)
Karenni Youth Union
and others
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Artisanal miners
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Religious groups
ethnic Paku Karen
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Public campaigns
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Mine tailing spills
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other environmental related diseases
Potential: Malnutrition
Other Health impactslung and skin diseases; exposure to mining waste in soil and water bodies
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Displacement, Land dispossession
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Migration/displacement
Strengthening of participation
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The mining area is under expansion despite the adverse impacts on locals, as reported by locals
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

2012 Environmental Conservation Law
[click to view]

2012 Foreign Investment Law
[click to view]

2015 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Procedure
[click to view]

1994 Myanmar Mines Law
[click to view]

2014 Environmental Conservation Rules
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] Molo Women Mining Watch Network (MWMWN), 2012. "Lost Paradise: Damaging impact of Mawchi tin mines in Burma's Karenni State". Published on December 11, 2012. (accessed online 19.09.2018).
[click to view]

[2] U Khin Zaw et al. 1983. A note on a fluid inclusion study of tin-tungsten mineralization at Mawchi Mine, Kayah State, Burma. Economic Geology(1983), 78 (3):530.
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[3] Joint Press Release, October 3, 2013, by the Molo Women Mining Watch Network and Karenni Civil Society Network. (accessed online 19.09.2018).
[click to view]

[4] The Myanmar Times, 22 October 2015. "Mawchi mines to reopen following deadly landslide". (accessed online 19.09.2018).
[click to view]

[5] Pamphlet, 2013 "Mining in conflict zones: a new form of military offensive". (accessed online 19.09.2018).
[click to view]

[6] Karenni Social Development Center (KSDC) on the Mawchi Mine. (accessed online 19.09.2018).
[click to view]

[7] Free Burma Rangers, Maw Chee Mining Report, 26 February 2016. (accessed online 19.09.2018).
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

RFA (Burmese) Maw Chi workers lack proper healthcare
[click to view]

RFA (Burmese) Mawchi Mine Working Condition
[click to view]

Up side down (Directed By Aung Thu, Edited By Saw Lay Bwe Mu. Shot in the days following the Mawchi Mine Landslide, this film examines the weakness in the disaster response systems in place)
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:EJatlas Southeast Asia Team ("at"
Last update08/10/2018
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