HPAKANT, Jul 2, 2020, Al Jazeera. At least 50 people have died after a landslide at a jade mine in northern Myanmar, according to officials, Al Jazeera reported.
The incident took place early on Thursday in the jade-rich Hpakant area of Kachin state after a bout of heavy rainfall, the Myanmar Fire Services Department said on Facebook.
“The jade miners were smothered by a wave of mud,” the statement said, putting the death toll at 50. “The search and rescue process is still ongoing.”
Photos posted on the Facebook page showed a search and rescue team wading through a valley apparently flooded by the mudslide.
Fatal landslides are common in the area, the victims often from impoverished communities who risk their lives hunting the translucent green gemstone.
Official sales of jade in Myanmar were worth $750.04m in 2016-2017, according to data published by the government as part of an Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
But experts believe the true value of the industry, which mainly exports to China, is much larger.
Northern Myanmar’s abundant natural resources – including jade, timber, gold and amber – have also helped finance both sides of a decades-long civil war between ethnic Kachin and the military.
The fight to control the mines and the revenues they bring frequently traps local civilians in the middle.