Along the muddy river bank hundreds of men pack down under small plastic sheets to avoid the direct sun and to take respite from the 38 degree heat. The men cram into the small bamboo shops beside the muddy river. The valley and river littered with generators and large hoses that the miners use in their hunt for gold. It is Sunday and the workers are having a break from work.
In this remote area o f Karen State almost everything is available – phone calls, money transfers, food, clothing, alcohol, electronics, machinery and there is even the Internet.
Thousands of people from all over Burma flood into the Baw Lu stream that links to Tenasserim River, in Southern Burma, to seek their fortunes from digging gold.
Oo Pa Pu is from Tha Ra Bwe village, and he owns a gold mine plot along the Baw Lu stream. He told to Karen News his business depends on luck.
“Here we cannot calculate how much profit we will get, it is a business that depends on luck. We do not find gold regularly. People say there is a lot of gold here, some people find it, but many people will lose their business.”
Many of the gold mining operations are small scale. There are over 120 machines in the gold mining in Baw Lu stream area. Workers and mine owners come from all over Burma, seeking their fortunes.
Oo Pa Pu has been mining in the area for more that 10 months.
“I got about one viss (about 1.65 kilogram) from last June until now. I don’t see much profit. We cannot predict exactly how well we will do, but if we don’t get much we lose the business. For me, the results are mixed – I make some profits, sometime losing and some time winning.”
Oo Tu Tu is with another miner Kaw Maw Praw, another gold miner who says.
“Sometimes I lose and sometimes I make a profit. I have been mining for a month and got about one kyatha (about 16.3293 g). But there was no profit left after paying for the petrol and labor fees. Most people
here lose, but there are a few who make a profit.”
Htun Win, a worker who has traveled down from from Kachin State said.
“I arrived here about 15 days ago. I heard that people could find gold here so I came. If I can get a lot of gold, I will start business to feed my family. I will only return to [Kachin State] if I save some
money. Some of my friends have got made a small amount, but not many.”
Htun Linn Oo is a mine worker who has been in the area for more than a month said.
“I have made 3,000 (US$3.37) to 4000 kyat (4.49 US$) so far. But we also heard that a few people found a viss (I.65kg) of gold but so far it is just gossip, we never saw it.”
Workers working on small scale gold mines are provide with food and only get paid if the mine finds gold. Workers get one third (about 33.33%) of the gold they find.
Maung Hsa Naing is a gold worker and says.
“I have been working here but I only get a small income. It is not enough to look after all of my family. If the employer don’t find enough gold, it is of no benefit to us.”