The government will stop issuing new coal mining licences due to the substance’s harmful effects on health, said U Ohn Win, Union Minister for Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation.
He also said factories which violate regulations in the burning of coal will be shut down.
“We will allow existing coal mines to continue operating, but new mining licences will not be granted,” he said on February 10.
“We will also be inspecting their mining process to check if they conform to regulations. The permission to continue mining will be granted only after we have inspected their method of mining.
“Coal is a serious business. On one hand, it’s critical for energy service, but it’s detrimental to people’s health,” added U Ohn Win.
U Ohn Win said his ministry’s officials will travel to the factories in the regions and states to inspect them.
“If they are found to be violating regulations we will close them down. There are currently none closed. But after our inspections are carried out in the summer, monsoon, and winter seasons, we will start closing them down,” said the minister.
The coal mining factories currently operating are Than Daw Myat, Myanmar Conch and Sin Min (3) in the town of Kyaukse; Padamyar Nagar in Tikyit, A Thone Lone, Kyar Gaung, and Myanmar Sin in Phyaut Sate Pin, Kanbawza in Pinpat, Shwe Taung in Pyi Nyaung and Ngwe Yi Pa Le in Nawngcho.
U Saw Moe Myint, MP from Kayin State Constituency No (1), said he had asked at the Amyotha Hluttaw “whether the nationwide factories’ switch to coal instead of natural gas, was in accordance with the environmental impact assessment (EIA) or social impact assessment (SIA), and whether factory fumes are within the permissible level.”
The MP said experts and equipment are needed to carry out inspections at coal factories.
“The inspections cannot be done only by the government and the related companies. There should also be a third party – that is a representative of the people. We also need to know whether EIA and SIA studies were done and study the reports.
“If there are harmful substances present in the fumes produced by coal mining, we need to find a solution to reduce them. We also need to figure out what kind of equipment to install in those coal factories,” U Saw Moe Myint told The Myanmar Times.
Coal contains air-polluting substances such as arsenic, calcium, chlorine, chromium, lead, manganese, mercury and nickel.
According to a survey done in 2013, there were about 560 coal mines in Myanmar, and the Ministry of Mines, formed by the previous government, estimated that about five million tonnes of coal will be extracted by the year 2030.
Coal was previously extracted from only three mines located in Sagaing Region and areas in northern Shan State, but currently, they are being mined by 57 private companies with an annual total yield of about 700,000 metric tonnes.
The first power plant in Myanmar to utilise coal to produce electricity was the Tikyit plant in southern Shan State.
– Translation by Kyaw Soe Htet