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Why is Myanmar's black gold luring plucky oil drillers

AFP|
From rags to riches
1/6

From rags to riches

As clouds of acrid, black smoke belched above the flames engulfing an artisanal oil field in central Myanmar, prospectors from nearby hillsides arrived in droves, hoping for riches from a fresh line of black gold.

AFP
Black gold
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Black gold

"The fire's a really good sign - it means there's lots of oil here," Khin Maung Htay says as he scouted around the site just hours after the blaze was extinguished.

AFP
Striking their luck
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Striking their luck

There were 600 barrels of oil a day coming out.

The fields near Minhla, north of Yangon, are Myanmar's equivalent of the American Wild West, where informal oil entrepreneurs scramble from site to site in the hope of striking lucky.

AFP
Hard to make their ends meet
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Hard to make their ends meet

It is a hard way to make a living.

A forest of temporary "derricks", three legged pyramids made from metal or bamboo stretching 30 feet or more into the air, covers the hillsides.

A pulley at the top of each well supports a drill that can plunge more than a kilometre into the ground.

Each is manned by a team working round-the-clock, often caked in black, viscous grime as they wait for a potentially lucrative spurt of oil.

AFP
Mixing & oiling
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Mixing & oiling

Children run around the hillsides dodging motorbikes and trucks transporting barrels of oil, while a handful of restaurants and tea shops serve the transient population of several thousand.

The weekend's blaze extinguished, some trudge knee-deep through a river of oozing filth, overspill from the wells mixing with water left behind by fire trucks, scraping up any oil they can salvage.

AFP
Don't want to lose money
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Don't want to lose money

People here dismiss the risks involved.

"The fires aren't dangerous. They happen all the time," one man says without giving his name. "We're just worried about losing money."

AFP
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