Resistance forces seize ex-military officer’s Mandalay gold mine 

Allied resistance forces raided a gold mine owned by a retired Myanmar army officer in Mandalay Region’s Pyin Oo Lwin District last week, suspending operations at the site. 

The mine, run by Kyaw Saw Thu Co. Ltd. and held by Maj Myo Khaing, is located between the villages of Kyauk Phyu and Kyat Yoe Pin in Thabeikkyin Township, which has a strong anti-regime presence. Around 70 people were employed there, according to the leader of the local anti-regime Eagle Force.

“We sealed it off because it is run by junta officers,” he told Myanmar Now on March 3, two days after his group targeted the location. 

The company staff in charge of the mine fled as soon as the attack on the compound started, he added. 

Two buildings were torched and destroyed, but machinery, including bulldozers, was left intact, Ko Thiha, a spokesperson for the Pyin Oo Lwin District People’s Defence Team said. Kyaw Saw Thu company had reportedly been operating since before the February 2021 military coup, producing 2 viss (more than 1.6kg) of gold monthly . 

A building inside Kyaw Saw Thu’s mining compound is seen burning after a March 1 attack by local resistance forces (Pyin Oo Lwin district People’s Defence Team)

The resistance groups now in control of the mine said that they hoped to resume operations after consulting with the publicly mandated National Unity Government (NUG), under whose command the defence team falls.

“We need to establish control over this area first, and we have to be able to provide security for the workers. Then we would be able to resume operations,” Ko Thiha said, adding that his resistance group was “awaiting the NUG’s directives.”

A Thabeikkyin local told Myanmar Now that the township had several gold mines and that they were being operated by junta-affiliated companies with the military council’s permission. 

“They typically shut down the companies that aren’t on good terms with the military,” the local said. “The mine owners who were friendly with the military put pressure on the junta to shut down those mines [belonging to their competitors]. It has been happening frequently.” 

In 2020, military conglomerate Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL) was granted permits by the National League for Democracy government—which was ousted in the coup—to operate 25 gold mines on nearly 465 acres of land in the Ohn Zone area of Thabeikkyin until 2031. 

Gold mining, increasingly by unlicensed and military-linked companies, has expanded in other areas of Myanmar since the coup, including in eastern Shan State and along the Uru River in Sagaing Region. 

According to the monitoring group Citizen Action for Transparency, mining in Mandalay Region—largely by MEHL—accounts for 60 percent of the gold produced in Myanmar. 

CAfT reported that 1,148 troy ounces (nearly 36kg) of gold had been extracted from Mandalay between October 2021 and March 2022, citing data from the junta’s natural resource ministry.

Since the coup, tracing the revenue from mining activities has grown even more difficult, the organisation said. 

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