This handout from the Myanmar Fire Services Department taken and released on July 2, shows rescuers attempting to locate survivors after a landslide at a jade mine in Hpakant, Kachin State. (AFP | Myanmar Fire Services Department)

At least 113 dead in Myanmar jade mine landslide

YANGON — The bodies of at least 113 jade miners were pulled from the mud on Thursday after a landslide in Kachin State, fire services said, in one of the worst accidents ever to hit the perilous industry.

Dozens die each year while working in the country’s highly lucrative but poorly regulated jade industry, which uses low-paid migrant workers to scrape out a gem highly coveted in China.

The landslide struck early on Thursday close to the Chinese border in Kachin State after a bout of heavy rainfall, the Myanmar Fire Services Department said on Facebook.

“The jade miners were smothered by a wave of mud,” the statement said. “The search and rescue process is still ongoing.”

A local police officer later said search and rescue efforts had been suspended due to heavy rains.

The workers were scavenging for the precious gemstones on the sharp mountainous terrain in Hpakant Township, where furrows from earlier digs had already loosened the earth.

Photos posted on the Facebook page showed a search and rescue team wading through a valley apparently flooded by the mudslide.

Open jade mines have pockmarked Hpakant’s remote terrain and given it the appearance of a vast moonscape.

Fatal landslides in the area are common, and the victims are often from impoverished ethnic communities that are looking for scraps left behind by big firms.

Watchdog Global Witness estimated that the industry was worth some $31 billion in 2014, although very little reaches state coffers.

Northern Myanmar’s abundant natural resources, including jade, timber, gold and amber, help finance both sides of a decades-long civil war between ethnic Kachin insurgents and the military.

The fight to control the mines and the revenues they bring frequently traps local civilians in the middle.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

More stories

Latest Issue

Stories in this issue
Myanmar enters 2021 with more friends than foes
The early delivery of vaccines is one of the many boons of the country’s geopolitics, but to really take advantage, Myanmar must bury the legacy of its isolationist past.
Will the Kayin BGF go quietly?
The Kayin State Border Guard Force has come under intense pressure from the Tatmadaw over its extensive, controversial business interests and there’s concern the ultimatum could trigger fresh hostilities in one of the country’s most war-torn areas.

Support our independent journalism and get exclusive behind-the-scenes content and analysis

Stay on top of Myanmar current affairs with our Daily Briefing and Media Monitor newsletters.

Sign up for our Frontier Fridays newsletter. It’s a free weekly round-up featuring the most important events shaping Myanmar