Chinese mining company enriching Myanmar junta via British Overseas Territories

December 11, 2023

A Chinese mining company incorporated in a British tax haven is expanding its business and organising the export of metal ore from Myanmar since the military launched an illegal coup attempt in 2021, helping to finance an illegitimate junta waging a war of terror against the people. The revelation brings into sharp focus the UK government’s failure to sanction key Myanmar mining enterprises that are currently under junta control.

Greenway Mining Group Limited, a Cayman Islands-incorporated company headquartered in China, has earned millions of dollars in revenue during the past decade from lead and silver mines it controls in Myanmar.

It has also paid a share of its revenue to the Myanmar junta via No. 1 Mining Enterprise (ME 1), a state agency controlled by the junta that earns revenue from partnerships with mining firms.

Since the attempted coup, Greenway Mining Group has remained active in Myanmar, even as countries including the UK, US, Canada and EU have imposed sanctions on junta members and enterprises under junta control.

The UK has not yet sanctioned ME 1 or No. 2 Mining Enterprise, unlike its allies the US, Canada and the EU. This means that Greenway Mining Group has been able to carry out business as usual with the junta from the Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands (BVI), which are British Overseas Territories that implement UK sanctions on Myanmar.  

Britain’s overseas territories comprise fourteen self-governing islands – many of them in the Caribbean – in which the UK retains control over their defence and foreign relations. Some have gained notoriety for their status as tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions.

In 2022, Greenway Mining Group told investors that it was seeking additional funding to further develop its operations in Myanmar, which involves collaboration with the military junta.

In January 2023, Greenway Mining Group announced it was seeking approval from the military junta to upgrade one of its mines to a medium-size and that it expected to receive the approvals and progressively resume production.

In the same announcement, it disclosed that “we have organized approximately 1,200 tonnes of goods to be shipped from Myanmar to China” after the “emergency situation”, a reference to the military’s coup attempt and ongoing armed resistance, including in northern Shan State, which borders China.  

Greenway Mining Group's parroting of junta propaganda is far removed from the reality on the ground in Myanmar where the junta has failed to take effective control of Myanmar’s territory as revolutionary organisations gain territorial control and run functioning administrations. The junta has brutally responded to nationwide resistance to the attempted coup with waves of atrocities, murdering more than 4,200 people, arbitrarily arresting more than 25,500 individuals and conducting indiscriminate air strikes and shelling across the country, financed in part through the proceeds of mining.

Greenway Mining Group, previously known as China Polymetallic Group, has since been forced to delist from the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, after failing to provide investors with audited annual financial statements going back to 2020. The company blamed the outbreak of Covid-19 and the coup attempt in Myanmar for its failure to disclose the statements.

Greenway Mining Group continues to do business in Myanmar and China, according to its website, although investor updates have dried up following its delisting.

However, an analysis of Greenway Mining Group’s audited financial statements for 2018/19 details the important contribution its mining operations in Myanmar made to the group’s revenue in the years immediately prior to the attempted military coup.

Greenway Mining Group produced approximately 81% of its lead-silver concentrates by volume in Myanmar in the 2018 and 2019 financial years.

Greenway Mining Group generated as much as US$17 million in revenue from mineral concentrates it extracted from Myanmar in 2018 and 2019, the analysis of its financials suggests.

The sale of lead-silver concentrates was the group’s biggest source of revenue in 2018 to 2019.

Greenway Mining Group operates two mines in Shan State, under the terms of a production sharing agreement that runs until 2029. The first, Aung Jiujia Mine, is an open-pit and underground lead-zinc mine in which it holds a 100% stake via a Myanmar-incorporated subsidiary. Aung Jiujia produced 111,500 tonnes of ore and more than 4,750 tonnes of lead-silver concentrate in 2019, according to audited group financials.

The second, GPS JV Mine, is an underground lead-silver polymetallic mine and processing plant in which Greenway Mining Group holds a 52% stake via a British Virgin Islands-incorporated company called Venture Million Enterprise Limited. GPS’s audited output in 2019 was 39,800 tonnes of ore and 4,440 tonnes of lead-silver concentrate.

Following a February 2020 share rights offering, Greenway Mining Group’s major shareholders were CITIC Dameng Investments Limited, incorporated in the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda but owned by a Hong Kong-listed company now known as South Manganese Investment Limited; as well as Shi Xiaozhou, a private investor. A wide range of institutional and retail investors, many of them Hong Kong-based, also hold shares in the company.

Through payments related to its operations in Myanmar, Greenway Mining Group is helping to enrich the military junta and enable it to continue committing war crimes and crimes against humanity with total impunity.  

Justice For Myanmar calls on Greenway Mining Group to immediately end all business with the junta, in line with its human rights responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles on business and human rights.

Justice For Myanmar calls on UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron to immediately sanction all key junta entities and individuals in the mining sector, including ME 1, ME 2 and Khin Maung Yi.

Authorities in British Overseas Territories, including the Cayman Islands and the BVI, should ensure all sanctions are enforced and prevent companies from using their jurisdictions for business with the terrorist Myanmar military junta.

Greenway Mining Group did not respond to questions from Justice For Myanmar about its business in Myanmar.