Landslide kills at least 17 at Hpakant jade mine in Myanmar

Miners at the Hpakant jade mining area in Kachin State. Tens of thousands of Myanmar youths come to Hpakant, the so-called land of Jade, with the hope of escaping poverty and making money through jade mining, despite treacherous conditions like landslides. Still, Kachin promises huge wealth for some, as its land holds the rare mineral jadeite, the world’s highest quality jade. Photo - EPA. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

SEIKHMU, Jul 29, 2019, Myanmar Times. A landslide at a jade mine near Seikhmu village, Hpakant township in Kachin State early on Sunday killed at least 17 people, including three security guards, a state official said, reported the Myanmar Times.

“We have been at the site of the accident for about half an hour and many are still missing,” State Minister for Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation U La Sai told media on Sunday.

Several hundred metres of dirt at a concession operated by the Yarzahtarni Jade Mining Co collapsed at about 2:30am on Sunday.

Tents occupied by miners and one used by five security guards were buried in the landslide, he said.

People scavenging for jade at the site were also buried.

According to the Thinkhar Philanthropic Society, which is assisting in the search and rescue, the bodies of 17 people had been found by Sunday afternoon.

“Two policemen were saved and have been hospitalised. Four of the dead recovered were not employees of the mining company,” Ko Saw Lin, a member of the charity told The Myanmar Times.

He also said that many people are still missing and the death toll is likely to rise.

All jade mining companies have stopped their operations due to the monsoon season, as the state government has ordered that mining be stopped from July to September due to the risk of landslides.

While Yarzahtarni Jade had stopped its operations for the monsoon, the company’s workers were still living at the site together with the guards.

U La Sai said that he has ordered mining companies to install warning signs everywhere there is a possibility landslides.

He also instructed township officials to inspect jade mines and take action against those that fail to implement the state government’s safety measures.

In April, more than 50 employees of a jade mining company died in a landslide at the Hpakant jade mines.

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