UNEARTH: Documenting extractive industries in Myanmar

In July and August 2015, six photographers began documenting Myanmar’s diverse and highly lucrative extractive industries sector. The photographers followed stories throughout the country, including the illicit jade trade from northern Myanmar’s Kachin State, the aftermath of government crackdowns on protests against the controversial Letpadaung copper mine in Sagaing Region and the tapping of onshore oil reserves along the banks of the Irrawaddy River.

Exploitation of natural resources in Myanmar has long been associated with corruption, environmental destruction and oppression of the civilian population. While Myanmar was accepted as candidate country to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and is preparing its first report, independent documentation, research and analysis of its extractive industries sector remains essential and complementary to this effort. The implementation of EITI, as well as much-needed broader reforms, will hopefully lead to a more transparent, responsible and accountable industry.

Building upon the photography already carried out, UNEARTH will be an ongoing and expanding media project which documents Myanmar’s extractive industries sector through a period of unprecedented change in the country’s history. The primary platform for the media produced will be an interactive website featuring photography, video and text documenting issues surrounding the industry as Myanmar implements EITI and beyond. Through the ongoing development of stories and production of diverse media the website will provide an extensive yet accessible resource for industry professionals, officials, media and the wider public.


In addition to the website, individual stories will be disseminated through national and international media outlets as well as photo and film festivals and online platforms. The six original photo essays commissioned by NRGI, which will form the first phase of the website, have already been confirmed for national print publication within Myanmar, two regional exhibitions (Myanmar and Thailand) and inclusion in programming for the Angkor Photo Festival (Cambodia) and Suwon (Korea).

This project and exhibition were made possible by the support of the Natural Resource Governance Institute.