April 13, 2024, Saturday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

At least 30 missing following Myanmar jade mine landslide

The Nepal Weekly
August 15, 2023
Landslide at Myanmar jade mine leaves over 30 miners missing

At least 30 people are reported missing following a mudslide at a jade mine in northern Myanmar. The mountainous town of Hpakant in the Kachin state is home to the world’s biggest and most lucrative jade mines. Many of those affected are believed to be locals digging through the mud along the cliffs, many of whom work and live in abandoned mining pits.

Lethal landslides are common in the area when heavy monsoon rain pummels Myanmar during rainy season. At least 162 people died in a landslide in the same area a couple of years ago, while an accident in 2015 left more than 110 dead. Mining operations had been suspended because of the rainy season. However, many of those caught in the accident, which happened at about 15:30 local time on Sunday, were independent scavengers looking to find jade.

The intense rain had loosened massive piles of earth more than 150m in height, left over from excavations by mining companies, sending the dirt and debris hurtling down the cliff and sweeping up miners on the way.

Survivors have described a wall of mud, rocks and floodwater overwhelming them as they were digging for jade. The landscape in this part of Myanmar is scarred with hundreds of unregulated mines. These attract huge numbers of migrant workers from other parts of the country who come to search for jade, most of which ends up being sold in China. One rescue worker told the Associated Press than 34 people were missing, while eight injured people were taken to a hospital on Sunday.

He said the search and rescue efforts were continuing, but some miners had already returned to the scene in the hope of finding jade. “We haven’t found any dead bodies yet,” said the rescue worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared being arrested by the military. Jade mining is an important source of revenue for Myanmar’s military government. It also finances the Kachin Independence Army, an ethnic armed group.

For many years, the military and Kachin insurgents have fought for control over this part of the Kachin State because of its jade mines, estimated to be worth some $30bn a year.