In its three chief mineral products, earth-oil, coal and gold, Burma offers a fair field for enterprise and nothing more. Without yielding fortunes for speculators, like South Africa or Australia, it returns a fair percentage upon genuine hard work. Coal is found in the Thayetmyo, Upper Chindwin and Shwebo districts, and in the Shan States; it also occurs in Mergui, but the deposits which have been so far discovered have been either of inferior quality or too far from their market to be worked to advantage. The tin mines in Lower Burma are worked by natives, but a company at one time worked mines in the Maliwun township of Mergui by European methods. The chief mines and minerals are in Upper Burma. The jade mines of Upper Burma are now practically the only source of supply of that mineral, which is in great demand over all China. The mines are situated beyond Kamaing, north of Mogaung in the Myitkyina district. The miners are all Kachins, and the right to collect the jade duty of 33⅓ is farmed out by government to a lessee, who has hitherto always been a Chinaman. The amount obtained has varied considerably.
In 1887-1888 the rent was Rs.50,000. This dwindled to Rs.36,000 in 1892-1893, but the system was then adopted of letting for a term of three years and a higher rent was obtained. The value varies enormously according to colour, which should be a particular shade of dark green. Semi-transparency, brilliancy and hardness are, however, also essentials. The old river mines produced the best quality. The quarry mines on the top of the hill near Tawmaw produce enormous quantities, but the quality is not so good.
The most important ruby-bearing area is the Mogôk stone tract, in the hills about 60 m. east of the Irrawaddy and 90 m. north-north-west of Mandalay. The right to mine for rubies by European methods and to levy royalties from persons working by native methods was leased to the Burma Ruby Mines Company, Limited, in 1889, and the lease was renewed in 1896 for 14 years at a rent of Rs.3,15,000 a year plus a share of the profits. The rent was reduced permanently in 1898 to Rs.2,00,000 a year, but the share of the profits taken by government was increased from 20 to 30%. There are other ruby mines at Nanyaseik in the Myitkyina district and at Sagyin in the Mandalay district, where the mining is by native methods under licence-fees of Rs.5 and Rs.10 a month. They are, however, only moderately successful. Gold is found in most of the rivers in Upper Burma, but the gold-washing industry is for the most part spasmodic in the intervals of agriculture. There is a gold mine at Kyaukpazat in the Mawnaing circle of the Kathra district, where the quartz is crushed by machinery and treated by chemical processes.
Work was begun in 1895, and the yield of gold in that year was 274 oz., which increased to 893 oz. in 1896-1897. This, however, proved to be merely a pocket, and the mine is now shut down. Dredging for gold, however, seems likely to prove very profitable and gold dust is found in practically every river in the hills.
The principal seats of the petroleum industry are Yenangyaung in the Magwe, and Yenangyat in the Pakôkku districts. The wells have been worked for a little over a century by the natives of the country. The Burma Oil Company since 1889 has worked by drilled wells on the American or cable system, and the amount produced is yearly becoming more and more important.
Amber is extracted by Kachins in the Hukawng valley beyond the administrative border, but the quality of the fossil resin is not very good. The amount exported varies considerably. Tourmaline or rubellite is found on the borders of the Ruby Mines district and in the Shan State of Möng Löng. Steatite is extracted from the Arakan hill quarries. Salt is manufactured at various places in Upper Burma, notably in the lower Chindwin, Sagaing, Shwebo, Myingyan and Yamethin districts, as well as at Mawhkio in the Shan State of Thibaw. Iron is found in many parts of the hills, and is worked by inhabitants of the country. A good deal is extracted and manufactured into native implements at Pang Lông in the Lēgya (Laihka) Shan State. Lead is extracted by a Chinese lessee from the mines at Bawzaing (Maw-sōn) in the Myelat, southern Shan States. The ore is rich in silver as well as in lead.