Executive Briefings

How a Rebel Myanmar Tin Mine May Up-End a Global Supply Chain

From a remote corner of northeastern Myanmar, an insurgent army sells tin ore to suppliers of some of the world's largest consumer companies. More than 500 companies, including leading brands such as smartphone maker Apple, coffee giant Starbucks and luxury jeweler Tiffany & Co, list among their suppliers Chinese-controlled firms that indirectly buy ore from the Man Maw mine near Myanmar's border with China, a Reuters examination of the supply chain found.

The mine is controlled by the United Wa State Army (UWSA), which the United States placed under sanctions for alleged narcotics trafficking in 2003. The seven companies extracting tin from the mine are all owned or controlled by Wa military and government leaders, Wa officials and people with close ties to UWSA leadership told Reuters.

This potentially puts companies, which also include industrial conglomerate General Electric, at risk of violating sanctions that forbid "direct or indirect" dealings with blacklisted groups, according to a former and a serving U.S. official and lawyers with expertise in sanctions enforcement.

Several sanctions experts said the U.S. government was unlikely to fine companies who unwittingly used the Myanmar tin. Still, it may force them to shift to new suppliers, they said.

A Treasury Department spokeswoman said U.S. sanctions "generally prohibit U.S. companies from engaging in any direct or indirect transactions or dealings with individuals or entities" on a blacklist, but declined further comment on specific circumstances.

The situation illustrates the difficulties facing multinationals in monitoring supply chains that have grown increasingly complex.

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The mine is controlled by the United Wa State Army (UWSA), which the United States placed under sanctions for alleged narcotics trafficking in 2003. The seven companies extracting tin from the mine are all owned or controlled by Wa military and government leaders, Wa officials and people with close ties to UWSA leadership told Reuters.

This potentially puts companies, which also include industrial conglomerate General Electric, at risk of violating sanctions that forbid "direct or indirect" dealings with blacklisted groups, according to a former and a serving U.S. official and lawyers with expertise in sanctions enforcement.

Several sanctions experts said the U.S. government was unlikely to fine companies who unwittingly used the Myanmar tin. Still, it may force them to shift to new suppliers, they said.

A Treasury Department spokeswoman said U.S. sanctions "generally prohibit U.S. companies from engaging in any direct or indirect transactions or dealings with individuals or entities" on a blacklist, but declined further comment on specific circumstances.

The situation illustrates the difficulties facing multinationals in monitoring supply chains that have grown increasingly complex.

Read Full Article