At least 31 people have died and eight more are still missing after a landslide at an illegal jade mine in a remote area of Myanmar, rescuers said on Wednesday.
After a weekend of excessive rain and flooding in northern Kachin, the catastrophe occurred on Sunday outside the Hpakant settlement. Due to the significant demand from neighboring China, jade mining in Myanmar is profitable, but the uncontrolled sector is plagued by frequent worker fatalities.
Speaking under the condition of anonymity to AFP, a rescuer said, “We found six more dead bodies this morning. Eight people are still missing, and the search is ongoing.
Others were found floating in the water, while rescuers had to dig through a lot of dirt to find the dead. Rescuers claim that a huge mound of earth that was left behind by mining excavations and stood 150 to 180 meters (500–600 feet) high collapsed after being loosened by heavy rain.
Although mining operations had to be put on hold due to the wet season, it is thought that the people trapped in the landslide were locals looking for treasure in the mud.
The majority of the world’s jade comes from Myanmar, and in 2020, a large landslide at a Hpakant mine claimed the lives of around 300 people. Jade and other abundant natural resources in northern Myanmar, such as timber, gold, and amber, have contributed to the financing of both sides in the long-running civil war between the military and ethnic Kachin rebels.
Although environmentalists and rights organizations have long urged for changes, a military coup in 2021, in the opinion of foreign watchdogs, virtually put an end to expectations for higher industrial standards. After the coup, the watchdog group Global Witness encouraged consumers to avoid buying jade and gemstones from Myanmar because they could be used as a “slush fund” for oppressive government policies.
According to a local source, there have been more than 3,900 civilian deaths since the coup.