Shan State is the largest administrative territory by land area, which covers approx. 38.5 million acres (155,800 km2), almost a quarter of the total area of Myanmar. Shan State’s vast mountainous region, also known as the Shan Highlands, ranges up to 8,770 feet above sea-level. A number of rivers, such as the Shweli, Myitnge, Zawgyi and Pan Laung have their sources in the state and flow into the Ayeyarwady River. The Salween River runs through the state towards the southeast of Myanmar.[1] Shan State has a large land area and wide variety of growing conditions. However, only about 8 per cent (3 million acres) of its land area is used for agriculture (net sown acreage).


Forested area covered 76 per cent of the state in 2000[2], declining to 51 per cent within about 20 years in 2017/2018. Forests are being used for extracting timber, firewood, and many other products. In line with national development policies, the Shan State Government encourages forest restoration through reforestation to responding to the rapid deforestation, which leads to loss of wildlife habitat and disturbance of ecosystems. As part of reforestation initiatives under the current government, 6,657 acres of commercial plantations have been established, comprising 2,999 acres in Moe-Mate District, 975 acres in Lashio District, 909 acres in Lin Khay District and 653 acres in Taunggyi District in 2017[3].


Many types of minerals have been discovered all over Shan State. Shan State is endowed with an abundance of mineral resources: tin, lead, silver, zinc, iron ore, coal, manganese, gold and mixed stones. Shan State is famous for high quality (rubies) and precious stones. Therefore, mining and quarrying is also an important sector of the economy of Shan State, accounting for 2.6 per cent of the state’s GDP. The sector contributes Kyat 137 billion (USD 88 million) to the state GDP in 2017/2018. Mong Hsu, a township of Loilen District, has been a primary source of high-quality rubies, after Mandalay’s Mogok area, since the early 1990s.


There are numerous natural waterfalls in Shan State. Harnessing hydropower could also bring economic benefits to the State. Since the Than Lwin River is flowing across the state from north to south, there are ample opportunities for hydroelectric generation.


Natural resources and other endowments


  Shan State Myanmar
 2015/2016  2017/2018  2015/2016  2017/2018
Total land area (,000 acre)  38,499  38,499  167,186  167,186
Net sown area (,000 acre)  2,975  3,004  29,671  29,792
Vacant land (including fallow in Shan State)(,000 acres)  493  489  12,964  13,695
Fallow land (,000 acre) 4670- 4760-  1,111  1,149
Industrial land (,000 acre)  8  9  –  –
Urban area (,000 acre)  92  93  –  –
Rural area (,000 acre)  192  193  –  –
Other land (,000 acre)  9,709  9,708  41,165  40,048
Forests (,000 acre)  19,811  19,747  82,275  82,502
Virgin land (,000 acre) 4670 4,705    
Uncultivated land (,000 acre)  549  549  –  –
Irrigated land (,000 acre)  585  577  3,000  3,090
Commercial forest plantation (,000 acre)  7.10  6.66    14.97
Timber extraction (teak and hardwood) (cubic ton)  52,628  11,275  692,066  236,182
Coal production – Mining (metric ton)  27,856  33,545  41,986  419,862
Lead mining (metric ton)  62,935  2,043,289
Other minerals (metric ton)   273,430
Number of mines (metal)  110  164  2043  
Number of mines (non-metal)  3  70  900  289
Area of natural forest, natural sites which can be potentially used for tourism project.  7  12  –

Source: GAD, CSO and different ministries in Shan State