YANGON — At least 13 jade mine workers and security guards in northern Myanmar were killed in a landslide Sunday, authorities said, as rescuers frantically searched for more victims.
Dozens die each year in landslides caused by jade mining, a dangerous and poorly regulated industry in Kachin State between the country’s borders with China and India.
Myanmar’s fire services department said in a Facebook post the accident happened in the early morning in Hpakant Township.
“We have sent two injured men and the dead bodies of 13 men” to a local hospital, the department said.
A police officer on the scene told AFP that the upper part of a mine collapsed and fell around 200 metres (700 feet) onto those sleeping below.
Though new regulations suspend mining during the wet season peak from July through September, some workers stay on site.
Heavy rains pounded the area over the last week, according to the officer, who said the search for those missing is ongoing.
The deadly landslide is the latest to hit Hpakant, the epicentre of a multibillion jade trade fueled by insatiable demand in China.
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 in 2014.
But corruption means 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.