At least 13 killed in Myanmar jade mine landslide

Miners searching for jade in Hpakant earlier this month. Yesterday's landslide is the latest to hit the Myanmar township, the epicentre of a lucrative jade trade fuelled by demand in China.
Miners searching for jade in Hpakant earlier this month. Yesterday's landslide is the latest to hit the Myanmar township, the epicentre of a lucrative jade trade fuelled by demand in China.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

YANGON • At least 13 jade mine workers and security guards in northern Myanmar were killed in a landslide yesterday, said the authorities, as rescuers frantically searched for more victims.

The deadly landslide is the latest to hit Hpakant, the epicentre of a multibillion-dollar jade trade fuelled by insatiable demand in China.

Dozens die each year in landslides caused by jade mining, a dangerous and poorly regulated industry, in Kachin state between Myanmar's borders with China and India.

Myanmar's fire services department said in a Facebook post that the accident happened in the early morning in Hpakant township.

"We have taken two injured men and the bodies of 13 men" to a local hospital, the department said. A police officer on the scene said the upper part of a mine collapsed and fell 200m onto those sleeping below.

Though new regulations suspend mining during the wet-season peak from July to September, some workers stay on site. Heavy rain pounded the area over the past week, according to the officer.

In April, more than 54 people were killed when a massive landslide buried workers along with dozens of vehicles.

Many miners are from impoverished ethnic minority communities who risk their lives hunting the translucent green gemstone.

Drug addiction among workers is also a major problem in Hpakant, which has been turned into a vast moonscape-like terrain by years of mining.

 
 

Watchdog Global Witness estimated that the industry was worth some US$31 billion (S$42.5 billion) in 2014. But corruption means that very little reaches state coffers.

Jade and other abundant natural resources in northern Myanmar, including timber, gold and amber, have helped finance both sides of a decades-long civil war between ethnic Kachin insurgents and the military.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2019, with the headline 'At least 13 killed in Myanmar jade mine landslide'. Print Edition | Subscribe