Giant jade stone uncovered by miners in Myanmar 'too big to move'

Myanmar Member of Parliament Tint Soe (fourth from right) poses with a group of officials and miners next to the giant jade stone on Oct 13, 2016.
Myanmar Member of Parliament Tint Soe (fourth from right) poses with a group of officials and miners next to the giant jade stone on Oct 13, 2016. PHOTO: AFP/ MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT TINT SOE

YANGON (AFP) - A 174-tonne piece of jade worth millions of dollars that was uncovered in Myanmar will have to stay where it is for now - because its owners don't have equipment strong enough to move it.

The 5.8m-long stone was discovered by miners in northern Kachin state last week, buried up to 60m deep inside a mountain.

"When the edge of the stone was scratched we could see the quality of the jade inside - the quality is very good," said Mr Tint Soe, 56, a local lawmaker.

While some have estimated the rock could be worth more than US$170 million (S$236 million), Mr Tint Soe said its value was probably closer to US$5.4 million.

Jade is traditionally used for charms and bracelets, but Mr Tint Soe said the company had not yet decided what this particular find would be used for - and have no way of moving it anyway.

"Currently the jade stone cannot be moved as there is no machine that can do it here, and no road either," he said.

Myanmar is the source of nearly all of the world's finest jadeite, a beautiful green stone highly prized in neighbouring China where it is known as the "stone of heaven".

Companies linked to the former junta dominate the trade, which Global Witness valued at around US$31 billion in 2014 alone - equivalent to around half the country's GDP.

Mining of the stone can extract a high human cost, with fatal mine collapses common - around 100 people died in a major landslide in November last year.

Most of the precious stone is smuggled across the border into China, where it is believed to bring luck and good health.