Sunday, November 22, 2020

Myanmar Mining Risking their Workers Lives Every Day (2016-2020)

Workers in Hpakant searching for Jade.

In Myanmar’s northernmost Kachin State, Hpakant, mining companies for as long as we know it have been searching for jade gemstones to generate billions of dollars a year in Myanmar. The entire jade industry is driven by a few positive outcomes because of the wealth involved in the stones. For instance, in 2014, the jade industry was worth up to $31 billion in 2014 alone.  The miners have been dragged into an ongoing cycle of environmental destruction, poverty, drug use and more because of the expectations of success in the mining industry. These mining companies are controlled by the government rule and are constantly creating suspensions and liabilities to attempt to prevent the destruction. For years there has been a present, ongoing battle with the Tatamadaw rules, or the military, and these mining companies. The nation’s government has been attempting to prevent the destruction of the land as they have seen over the years through repetitive landslides. Since 2016, the government implemented suspensions on gemstone permits exposing military-linked networks. This is because people were starting to optimize that the conflict and corruption could be reformed simply because of these suspensions. The licensing suspension showed that the military was controlling jade production proving why most of the miners do not even see the benefits of the profits they are making because the military is involved and overcoming the production before the local people even have the chance. The government and military have attempted to regulate the mining and use guidelines, such as the suspensions, to help maintain the laws and regulations. (Frontier Myanmar 2018). 

            However, more recently, the government is still attempting to control and prevent the mining from destroying the communities. In July, they ordered the mines to close from July 1 to September 30th because of the risk of landslides during the heavy rain seasons. The miners did not back down. Hundreds of illegal workers came in to keep searching for the jade instead of the regular workers from companies despite the risks. “An illegal ethnic armed group took money from the illegal miners and gave them permission to work here” (New York Times 2020). They began searching at night and out of normal mining company hours so they would not draw attention to their illegal actions that they are taking part in. These illegal miners are considered the most vulnerable and they are called the yemase. They are often addicted to methamphetamines and heroin, therefore relying on the mining sites at night. Mining is such a large part of Myanmar’s community that it is almost impossible to stop around 100,000 miners that work in the region despite the risks.

When the landslide occurred on July 2, 2020, it was not out of the ordinary. Mine collapses occur frequently in the Kachin State. Just last year more than 50 people died in a similar landslide and dozens were swept away the year before. The hundreds of workers were digging illegally near the water’s edge when the entire mining hill above a large body of water, that has gathered over time, began to slide. Mud and rainwater forcefully traveled through the mining valley below taking all of the miners in the valley with it. The workers did not have enough time to run away causing them to drown from the 20-foot wave. The government can try time and time again to prevent the miners from having to run to the hills but there are so many factors from drug use to domestic abuse that the members of this country are not willing to stop, or even take a break from mining.


The miners and their families like Kai Ring represent a large number of the stakeholders. This is because they lose the most no matter what. The ongoing war has added constant stress for the villages because if they are mining illegally it's bad, but if they are mining legally its bad because the military takes all of their profit. Additionally, the Tatamadaw military and the mining companies are stakeholders and all of the countries that trade with Myanmar for their jade. The mining company has multiple workers other than those from the village and they all could be at stake.


Individualism focuses on the importance of maximizing profit within the law. In the situation with Myanmar, individualists would consider the mining companies' actions unethical. This is because the companies are illegally mining and using extra time and demand from their workers in order to maximize their profits. Milton Friedman argued that management was responsible for maximizing business profits and any actions taken without considering profit is stealing from the owners of the company (Salazar 17). The illegal work is an exact representation of how they are not utilizing their ability to profit properly. They are breaking laws and even going against the military to get what they want.

Miners searching at night, illegally.

When Myanmar’s Parliament passed a bill preventing new licensing of mining companies, the government showed little to no involvement in restricting the amount of mining. The companies continue to illegally mine which causes a large conflict of interest. In addition, there was an attempt to reduce the size of mining block areas, but companies did not listen. Mining companies could be fifty or one hundred acres, but the law only allows three or five acres. Mining companies continue to be unethical and irresponsible because of the fact that time and time again they do not consider the factors of the workers that are expected to cover all parts of the land even if they continue to expand. Finally, Myanmar produces “70% of the world’s jade stone…but as much as four-fifths of the country’s jade is smuggled abroad” (Yeung). Not only is trade illegal but the smuggling does not benefit the country because they lose more in factors such as tax revenue which continues to show they may not even be maximizing their profits at this point and it is still illegal.


            According to utilitarianism, actions are ethical when the maximum amount of people possible are happy. Happiness is the most important factor in utilitarianism and the people of Myanmar are clearly not happy. They are being forced into working in conditions that they are not comfortable in. People are stated that they are constantly worried that they could die at any second when they are searching for jade because of the harm to the environment over the years. Not only are their lives at risk because of the environment but also people have lost their land due to the expansion of mining. As the areas of mining continue to grow miners and their family’s homes have been overcome. Families are losing their loved ones as mining disasters continue to occur causing despair. Additionally, women in Myanmar are not permitted to mine and therefore everyone in the community is not happy because women are not provided with opportunities to work other than inside their homes. Finally, there is a consistent drug use problem because heroin is sold “openly, like selling a movie ticket” (Yeung). Addiction has spread across the communities and people are losing their lives once again to more factors other than mining because the community is simply destructive.


            Kantianism states that rational decisions need to be ethical. Kant consists of the formula of humanity which states to treat people as an end itself and not simply as a mere means. Decisions must be motivated by your expectations and not self-interest. In Myanmar, the mining companies are using their workers to continue the company’s growth and a business is never exempt from the Kantianism rules and standards. The business should always be honest and loyal to their workers and customers. Mining companies are putting their workers at risk and lying to all of them because the government lacks the involvement, and the companies take advantage of that. If they acted ethically and followed the government’s rules, they could have saved the 200 or more lives lost from only one landslide disaster. Instead, the mining companies are acting out of self-interest and there is no one stopping them. Universal law, on the other hand, establishes a maxim that everyone will follow. The government has lacked this involvement and not established a reliable maxim for everyone to follow consistently and therefore the people are able to lie and deceit others because there is no clear universal law. If there was a consistent and enforced idea for all of the mining companies in the area, then the treatment of the workers would be more ethical. The miners do not even receive a large benefit from the mining and once again are being treated with unethical actions.

Virtuous Theory

             The Virtue theory consists of the cardinal virtues which are courage, justice, wisdom, and temperance. All of these virtues must be met in order for a business to be ethically successful. These virtues are not all equally represented in the mining companies and their actions. Once one virtue is not present then the whole system can fail because they are showing unethical qualities. Justice is hard work, quality products, and fair practices. The mining companies lack justice and honesty because they are going behind the rules and regulations implemented by the government simply to keep their business going. The miners are risking their lives every day because of their justice of working hard but the government and mining companies are unethical and do not provide the safety protection that the miners deserve. Temperance is having a realistic mindset of expectations and desires. The mining companies are showing a lack of temperance because they are not being smart and considering the factors that they are destroying the environment and lacking the prudent thoughts that can help to save the environment and future dangerous risks from happening. The mining companies’ expectations to maximize their profits have become unrealistic because they are expanding their mining areas, destroying the environment, and ruining the lives of the people. The expectations to be as successful as possible should not be so high that they overcome the land and its people.


            In my opinion, the mining companies are being very unethical towards their workers. If a company wants to be successful they must value what generates the most success; and in this case, it is their workers. Although the government attempted to put a restriction on mining, it was not enforced enough to protect its people. The government and the mining companies are both at stake for not being responsible enough. This is not the first time a landslide has occurs resulting in a large number of deaths which shows the government is not impacted by these events. If events keep occurring where large members of the community are either dying or being lost, families are, if not already, going to revolt. It is difficult to lose a loved one and if these families are losing their family members all because of events that can be prevented, they are going to start showing emotion and despair. The communities are already at risk because of the presence of poverty and their low living standards, adding illegal mining and high expectations for miners, the community risks are extreme. If people are mining they are more likely to get roped into the drug use that takes place in Myanmar which also causes more health risks. Overall, Myanmar mining and the government has very unethical motivations, and it's leading to more and more harm to every aspect of the Myanmar community.

Action Plan

Workers are constantly putting their lives at risk every day they show up. From the effects on the environment and all of the stakeholders at risk, the government and the mining companies must be aware of the constant effects they are causing. The government must become more involved by implementing stricter laws to the illegal actions that are taking place. If the government gets involved then the miners are less likely to continue expanding their mining locations and be able to prevent the environmental hazards. The miners should implement a strike in order to act against the companies that are encouraging them to continue mining in difficult scenarios. If the miners show concern for the environment and their own safety then the company should honor the fact that they should focus on their workers. Once the workers provide a reality check for the company, they should begin to monitor close workings and simply follow the government's interventions. If they simply follow the pause in working from July 1-September 30, two hundred lives could have been saved all because there should have been a pause in mining for a couple months.

Myanmar's government has yet to implement desperately needed reforms, allowing deadly mining practices to continue. Between the government and the mining companies, they should focus on a new outlook that could benefit every stakeholder ethically. My recommendation is to go by a statement to create and grow sustainable value for our stakeholders through the application of best practices in mining and our commitment to protecting the health and wellbeing of our employees and the environment in the communities where we work. This mission statement not only values the goals of the company when it comes to being successful but also it highlights the greater importance of protecting their employees as well. With this statement in mind, governments and companies can honor the safety, efficiency, and respect of every stakeholder involved reflecting the core values that they should encourage.

The mining companies and the government should much closely be monitoring all aspects of the miner’s lives. They complain about a variety of unhappy factors in their lives from mining in dangerous settings to drug abuse in their community. Therefore, as a result, mining companies must look to individualism and be certain that although they want to maximize their profit the people must be happy because they show unhappiness with companies breaking the law. The population of Myanmar and the communities within all show law-breaking events because of scenarios like drug use and sexual abuse. The company should follow through with better rule-following in order to help the company flourish after the controversy. If they begin strictly following the guidelines, such as not mining during monsoon season, then they will be better off overall. The employee’s lives will be protected and the environment will be protected as well.

Marketing aspects that will benefit the company would be a representative of direct stories or presentations from the members of the community. If their overall lives improve then there should be public documentation showing that they are happier because of the change in guidelines for mining. These stories should be shared with outside communities and especially the government. If the government can acknowledge and recognize that their people are happier then they are more likely to continue to encourage the laws that they implement. It is known that if positive results are proven from a particular change then the change should continue to stay that way. My plan will help benefit business profits because if the mining companies are forced to not illegally sell the jade then they may be able to find more successful, legal deals with other companies. Additionally, if the companies are selling legally then the employees will be treated better because they can receive a more direct benefit from the companies’ profit. Currently, they find valuable items and simply give them away for other companies or directors to manage and sell for their own benefit. The mission statement will be supported if the company is able to be successful and the employees are safe and happy. Everyone will only be happy if there is a better treatment to the environment and its people.


Beech, Hannah, and Saw Nang. “Raids Reveal Massive Fentanyl Production in Myanmar.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 May 2020,

Fishbein, Emily, and Aung Myat Lamung. “How A Beloved Gemstone Became A Symbol Of Environmental Tragedy In Myanmar.” NPR, NPR, 29 Sept. 2020,

Fishbein, Emily, and Aung Myat Lamung. “In Myanmar's Largest Jade Mining Town, the Semi-Precious Stone Prized by Chinese Costs More Than Money.” Pulitzer Center, 19 Aug. 2020,

Hindstorm, Hanna. “Back to Business as Usual in Myanmar's Jade Mines?” Frontier Myanmar, Global Witness, 28 Nov. 2018,

Nang, Saw, and Richard C. Paddock. “Myanmar Jade Mine Collapse Kills at Least 168.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 2 July 2020,

Salazar, Heather. The Business Ethics Case Manual: The Authoritative Step-by Step Guide to Understanding and Improving the Ethics of Any Business. Print.

Yeung, Peter. “Lethal Landslips and Drug Addiction: Myanmar's Toxic Jade Trade.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 25 Feb. 2019,

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