MAC/20: Mines and Communities

US ban on Burma gems needs tightening

Published by MAC on 2008-10-21

The Bush government's attempt to stem financial support for Burma's military regime, by banning import of its gems into the US, appears to have had little impact; tougher import monitoring is now being proposed.

Among traders purchasing precious stones at the latest Burmese auction were ones from Canada, while over 2,000 merchants turned up from China alone.


Jade and gem sale earns Myanmar $175 million

Associated Press

17th October 2008

Myanmar has earned more than $175 million (130 million euros) from its latest government-sponsored sale of gems, despite a U.S. ban on their import, an official said Friday.

Most of the revenue from the 13-day auction that ended Thursday was earned from the sales of jade, which fetched more than $172 million (128 million euros).

Gemstones and pearls were the other items offered.

An organizer of the gems emporium, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to release information, said 2,648 gem merchants participated from nearly a dozen countries, including China, Thailand, Japan and Canada.

In July, President Bush signed legislation banning the import of gems from Myanmar, which already was the voluntary policy of retailers like Tiffany's and Bulgari.

It is one of several economic sanctions Washington has applied to Myanmar's military government because of its poor human rights record and failure to hand over power to a democratically elected government.

U.S. officials said at that time that Myanmar has been evading earlier gem-targeting sanctions by laundering stones in other countries before they are shipped to the United States.

Myanmar gem sellers say the sanctions have very little impact on their business because they rely on Chinese and Thai gem merchants, who are the major buyers.

The largest contingent at this latest sale was the more than 2,200 gem merchants from China, which is the main market for Myanmar jade. The second largest contingent of more than 70 gem merchants were Thais, who usually dominate the gems and jewelry bidding.

Due to U.S. economic sanctions imposed on Myanmar in July 2003, which froze all U.S. dollar remittances to the country, international business transactions including the gem sales are done in euros.

Organized by the Mines Ministry, the events are major revenue earners for Myanmar - one of the biggest jade and gem producing countries in the world. Myanmar has held gem emporiums since 1964, and organizers launched a midyear sale in 1992.


Tougher tests in US to keep out Burmese rubies

William Boot

The Irrawaddy

17th October 2008y

The United States is intensifying its monitoring of imported rubies, using high technology to ensure that the precious stone do not slip into the country from Burma.

Burmese mined rubies are prohibited in the U.S. under a new law which widens sanctions against the Burmese military regime.

The law gives new powers to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency to require verification that imported rubies were not originally mined in Burma.

In addition to strict documentation on origin, rubies coming into the country will be subject to random laboratory analysis, using technology which can help identity place of origin.

Until enactment of the Tom Lantos Block Burmese Jade Act, only about 1 percent of rubies imported into the U.S. were subject to laboratory analysis. But the analysis firm American Gemological Laboratories said in a statement this week that, "We expect the enforcement of this new law will have a significant influence on the manner in which rubies are documented for trading across our borders."

The firm is one of three major laboratories engaged in gemstone analysis in the U.S. and which use spectrographic technology to check stones.

The U.S. has in the past been a significant market for Burmese rubies. The U.S. Geological Survey reported that Americans imported 3.68 million carats of rubies from all foreign sources in 2006, the latest year for records.

The Burmese government has increased the number of gemstones auctions per year in a bid to raise profits.

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