Jade trade casts shadow

These workers are searching for jade in the debris left behind at a dump mine in the Hpakant jade-mining area in northern Myanmar's Kachin state.

Tens of thousands of Myanmar youth have come to the harsh and inhospitable Hpakant region with the dream of finding jadeite, the world's highest quality of jade.

This, they hope, is their route out of poverty.

Jade, known as the stone of heaven among the Chinese, is in high demand in neighbouring China. The increase in buying power there has been driving record sales of the precious gem.

But, instead of the fortune they dream of, many of these young jade miners have fallen into the nightmare of heroin addiction.

A recent report in Time magazine estimates that 75 per cent to 90 per cent of the migrant workers in Hpakant are addicts.

Diseases like Aids are on the rise too as a result.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2017, with the headline 'Jade trade casts shadow'. Print Edition | Subscribe