At least 15 dead in jade mine landslide


YANGON — At least 15 people have been killed and dozens injured in a landslide at an old jade mine in northern Myanmar, state media reported on Sunday, as rains complicate the search for more victims.

The accident is the latest to strike the multibillion dollar industry centred in Kachin State, the source of most of the world’s jade.

The poorly regulated and murky business is fuelled by demand across the border in China where the near-translucent green gem is prized.

But the vast mines and deposits attract impoverished workers who are offered little in the way of protection as they risk life and limb to dig out profits from the soil.

Support more independent journalism like this. Sign up to be a Frontier member.

Those who died were “searching for jade” at a defunct mine on Saturday in Hpakant Township when they were hit by a landslide, the Ministry of Information said on its official website.

Fourteen bodies were recovered and a 15th person died in hospital, it said. More than 45 people were being treated for injuries.

Long Long, a 30-year-old resident of Hpakant, told AFP the landslide happened in a sub-township called Lone Khin.

“The rescue process found the dead bodies yesterday but this morning there is heavy rain here,” she said.

A security guard in the area who saw the landslide told AFP there were probably more victims unaccounted for but monsoon rains made the search difficult on Sunday.

The ministry said a rescue team of village authorities, firefighers and local NGOs had helped respond to the accident.

A number of deadly landslides have struck the area around Hpakant in recent years, with one major incident in November 2015 leaving more than 100 dead.

In May 17 people were killed in a mining compound in Hpakant Township after a wall of rock collapsed when miners attempted to dig for jade under it.

The NGO Global Witness said the industry was worth some US$31 billion in 2014 alone, with much of the funds not reaching state coffers.

Kachin is a resource-rich part of the country that has long played host to conflict between ethnic insurgents fighting for more autonomy and the Tatmadaw.

More than 100,000 people have been displaced due to fighting between the Kachin Independence Army and the military after a ceasefire broke down in 2011.

Thousands have fled their homes since the start of the year in response to a new bout of clashes.

Civilian leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has said ending Myanmar’s conflicts in its borderlands is a priority, but her administration had yet to make significant progress.

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