One dead, up to 100 missing in jade mine landslide in Myanmar

·2-min read
A rescue team searches for missing people after a landslide at a jade mining site in Hpakant, Myanmar  (AFP via Getty)
A rescue team searches for missing people after a landslide at a jade mining site in Hpakant, Myanmar (AFP via Getty)

At least one person is confirmed dead and at least 70 are feared to have been buried under rubble after a landslide at a remote jade mine in northern Myanmar.

The landslide in the Hpakant area of Kachin state, which is the centre of the world’s biggest and most lucrative jade mining industry, occurred around 4am local time on Wednesday (9.30pm GMT on Tuesday).

Around 70 to 100 people, mostly jade miners, were working inside the mine when some of them were swept into a lake by overflowing mining waste, an official at the Kachin Network Development Foundation told Reuters.

A rescue operation is under way to find the missing people.

Earth and waste from several mines around Lone Khin village slid about 200ft down a cliff and struck the miners, Nyo Chaw, a rescue team official who is coordinating the rescue effort, told the Associated Press.

Three shops in the area and five young men were also buried in the landslide, while the body of a jade worker was pulled out from heavy mud by afternoon, he added.

About 150 rescuers are working to find the missing people (Anonymous Source/AFP via Getty)
About 150 rescuers are working to find the missing people (Anonymous Source/AFP via Getty)

“About 150 rescue workers and firefighters are searching the area and we have found the body of a jade miner so far and keep finding others,” he said. Boats are also being used in the rescue operation.

A member of the rescue team told the AFP news agency that “about 70 to 100 people are missing in a landslide” and so far 25 injured people have been sent to hospital.

According to local news outlet Kachin News Group, about 20 miners have died in the landslide.

Myanmar is the world’s largest source of semi-precious stone jade, but dozens die each year in the mines, which have seen numerous accidents to date.

Firefighters join the search effort after the landslide at the illegal mine, one of many, where locals work in dangerous conditions (EPA)
Firefighters join the search effort after the landslide at the illegal mine, one of many, where locals work in dangerous conditions (EPA)

Jade mining is banned in Hpakant but locals continue to defy rules and work in highly impoverished conditions and for low wages to scrape out the gem that is highly coveted in neighbouring China.

Illegal mining has become even more rampant after the military coup in February.

According to an official of a civil rights group, who asked to not be named, around 20 to 50 mining companies have been operating illegal mines in the area.

At least 162 people had died in Hpakant after a heavy downpour triggered a landslide on 3 July 2020.

Another 113 died in an accident in November 2015 when a 200ft-high mountain of waste discarded by mines collapsed in the middle of the night burying 70 huts.

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