It is widely believed that depending on sheer luck, some gemstone miners strike it rich without any effort on their part, while others spend their lifetime in the mines unable to find even one valuable gem
When asked which period he misses the most during his mining career in Mogok, U Aung Than, without any hesitation, answered it was during the mid 1970s and around 1990s. In an exclusive interview last week, he described those thriving times as ‘illegal’ and ‘black marketing’ periods.
U Aung Than, who is now 58 years old, is from Maing Thar ethnic group and grew up in Mogok’s mining area since he was a teen. During the British rule, due to scarcity of labor in the mining companies, Shan-Chinese ethnics called Maing Thar, who were industrious and were from the Myanmar-China border, were given jobs, and since that time they were working as miners in Mogok.
Mining is the main lifeline of Mogok, and it is no surprise to find residents from that town mainly working as mining entrepreneurs, laborers or dealing in gems trade.
In 1889, during the British rule, the Burma Ruby Mines Company was established, and with an investment of 150,000 pound sterling value at that time, ruby mining was extensively undertaken. Morgan, the company’s chief engineer, submitted an underground canal plan 100 feet below the Mogok valley ground surface, with seven feet high, seven feet wide and over one mile long dimensions.
The plan was to contain the flooding issue in the mines, and to have excess water from the valley region flow through the canal to a low-lying Yay Ni stream near Kyauk Htat Gyi. Thus, one can imagine how extensive the mining business was in those times.
The underground canal plan was implemented in 1906. Gemstone mines in the Mogok valley, which could be dug only 20 feet in the past, could then be dug 100 feet deep. But, unfortunately, in 1925, the dugout collapsed, flooding all mines in the valley and causing a big lake to emerge. That lake is the origin of the Inngyi Lake that could be seen now in the middle of Mogok.
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