Burmite amber also known simply as Burmite is a fossilized tree resin from the North of Myanmar in Kachin state.
Kachin state is a mountainous area with harsh tropical terrain inhabited by various hill tribes in the foothills of the Himalayas.
The territory used to belong to India and China until the British gave the land to the Burmese. Around 10,000 people in Myanmar work with Burmite and in China there are about 20,000 people who work with Burmite.
China borders with Kachin state and has modern processing facilities and markets, China has freer markets and less export restrictions and so more people in China work with Burmite than in Myanmar.
Traditionally Myanmar has been famous for its rubies, sapphires and jades, Myanmar produces over 300 gem varieties many of which are very high quality. Amber having less hardness than many gems meant that it was not popular in modern markets.
Note that in ancient times humans liked softer stones as they were easier to work and fashion into jewelry, with modern tools and techniques humans switched their preference for harder stones.
In the early 1900's British explorers thought that the amber was not so old and therefore not so interesting. Strange primitive inclusions in the amber created controversy and decades later science had advanced enough to enable radioactive isotope dating of the amber.
Dating of the lead (Pb) isotopes in zircons contained on the amber Hukawng amber was found to be 99 million years old at the Noije Bum hilltop and 110 million years old at the Chungwa mines in neighboring Khamti.
Amber can be found in many different locations in Hukawng which is a vast valley with a large tiger population.
The mother rock on these ambers varies from coal to shale to limestone to marble.
In places amber can be found near the surface and when mining can be found up to 80 meters deep underground. We estimate that until 2023 not even 1% of the burmite has been mined. The actual underground forest with amber is very large indeed and many of the areas mined until today are simply areas where mining is facilitated and made easier by various factors. Hukawng valley for example has 4 tributary rivers that lead into the Chindwin river and these rivers have long been the easiest and safest way to travel through many of these valleys and for that reason many mines are made near these rivers not just because that is where the amber is but for convenience.