At least 70 missing, 1 dead after landslide at Myanmar jade mine

At least 70 people were missing and one confirmed dead on Wednesday (Dec 22) following a landslide at a jade mine in northern Myanmar, a member of the rescue team told AFP.

“About 70-100 people are missing in a landslide that happened around 4am (5.30am, Singapore time)” at Hpakant mine in Kachin state, said rescue team member Ko Ny.

“We’ve sent 25 injured people to hospital while we’ve found one dead.”

Around 200 rescuers were searching to recover bodies, and some were using boats to search for the dead in a nearby lake, he added.

“Authorities arrived at the site around 7am and are conducting the search,” Dashi Naw Lawn, an official at the civil society group Kachin Network Development Foundation said by telephone.

Deadly landslides and other accidents are common in the poorly regulated mines of Hpakant – the heart of Myanmar’s jade trade in northern Kachin state – which draw impoverished workers from across Myanmar in search of gems mostly for export to China.

Economic pressures due to the COVID-19 pandemic have drawn more migrants to the jade mines even as conflict has flared since Myanmar’s military seized power in a coup in February.

The ousted government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi had pledged to clean up the industry when it took power in 2016, but activists say little has changed.

In July last year, more than 170 people, many of them migrants, died in one of the worst disasters in Hpakant after mining waste collapsed into a lake.

Myanmar produces 90 per cent of the world’s jade. Most comes from Hpakant, where rights groups say mining firms with links to military elites and ethnic armed groups make billions of dollars a year.


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