New Jade Mining Landslide Leaves 40 Missing in Myanmar's Hpakant

2016-01-13
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Recovery operations are shown under way at the site of a landslide in Hpakant in November 2015.
Recovery operations are shown under way at the site of a landslide in Hpakant in November 2015.
RFA

At least 40 migrant mine workers are believed missing following the collapse Tuesday night of a mountain of soil and other waste cast off from jade mining operations in Hpakant in Myanmar’s Kachin State, sources said.

The landslide struck at about 10:30 p.m. not far from the site of another slide which killed over 100 in November, a local source told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

“I heard that about 40 are missing, though we have the names of only three missing people,” Naw Law, secretary of the Kachin National Social Development Foundation, said.

“We went there to help rescue victims but couldn’t do very much because of the possibility of further landslides,” he said.

“We did see some civil society organizations (CSOs) and the Red Cross helping people, but no government organizations were there.”

In November, a 200-foot pile of dirt and other material from mining activities collapsed in Hpakant, engulfing huts in an encampment of itinerant jade scavengers and their families, killing more than 100 people.

Unregulated operations

Landslides continue to occur in Hpakant because mining companies dispose of waste soil improperly and the government has been unable to regulate their operations, Naw Law said.

“It’s getting worse this year, because mining companies are doing as much business as they can in the short time left [in the current government’s term],” he said.

Jade mining production in Hpakant has spiked in the last few months as the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, which won elections on Nov. 8, prepares to form a new government sometime early this year.

The party, led by Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, has called for increased safety measures and government oversight of the industry.

Hpakant produces some of the highest-quality jade in the world, much of which is exported and smuggled to neighboring China where demand for the precious stone is high.

Reported by Zarni Htun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Richard Finney.

CH. 1: MANDARIN | CANTONESE

CH. 2: VIETNAMESE | BURMESE | KOREAN

CH. 3: KHMER | LAO | UYGHUR

CH. 4: TIBETAN

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