Myanmar: Lack of industry regulation puts informal ruby miners' lives at risk
"Myanmar gem hunters risk lives for quick profit", 25 May 2019
Burrowing deep underground, thousands of informal miners risk their lives to find gleaming red gems as a law change spurs opportunity in Myanmar's "land of rubies".
...The Mogok rubies are the most expensive in the world, with the highest-quality jewels fetching multi-million-dollar prices in an industry notoriously bereft of regulation.
For years, private companies were permitted to mine in a joint venture with state-owned Myanmar Gems Enterprise.
But a recent law change – aimed at reining in big companies digging hundreds of metres deep – means many licences have not been renewed, and the former diggings have been invaded by artisanal miners.
...With no security protecting the sites, locals – many former employees of the mining companies and long marginalised in the trade – have rushed in to stake a claim.
Now the openings of makeshift shafts, some just metres apart, pepper crowded sites, with teams working around the clock to bring up buckets of soil from depths of 30 metres (100 feet).
The holes lead down into a maze of bamboo-supported tunnels just wide enough for the men to inch along on their bellies, while long tubes feed oxygen into the shafts.
...Tunnel collapses are a constant threat in this scramble for riches, and the start of the rainy season only ups the risk.