Myanmar to boost safety after mine disaster

YANGON • Myanmar's newly elected government has said it plans to tighten safety controls at the country's poorly regulated jade mines after a landslide swept over a mining encampment, resulting in a death toll expected to reach around 200 people.

Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won a resounding victory in the country's Nov 8 polls, but her government could risk conflict with powerful vested interests controlling Myanmar's jade mines if it moves too forcefully to rein in their business.

The jade trade is dominated by companies linked to leaders of the previous military government, ethnic armies and cronies with close connections to the former junta.

"We will have to review the existing regulations and if necessary will require the companies to have safe and adequate dump sites when they apply for licences," Mr Nyan Win, an NLD spokesman, said yesterday."If existing regulations have this provision, we will have to enforce it."

The value of jade production in Myanmar is estimated at around US$31 billion (S$44 billion) last year, according to researchers from environmental advocacy group Global Witness.

Rescue workers yesterday said they have abandoned hope of finding survivors in their search for the bodies of some 100 missing people, having already recovered 113 after the disaster at the jade mine at Hpakant, in Myanmar's remote northern mountains.

The landslide was caused by a gigantic slag heap of debris excavated from mines, which subsided in the early hours of Saturday and slid over the makeshift settlement at its foot, burying the miners as they slept.

Mr Ye Htut, the spokesman for the President's Office, said that safety measures put in place by the state government following previous landslides were not followed.

"The federal government needs to intervene to impose stricter restrictions," he said.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2015, with the headline 'Myanmar to boost safety after mine disaster'. Print Edition | Subscribe