Myanmar: Jade mine collapse kills more than 100

The landslide was triggered by heavy rains and razed the site in the jade-rich area of ​​Hpakant on Thursday morning.

The Myanmar Fire Department said 162 bodies had been recovered as of 7:15 pm Thursday local time, and another 54 people were rushed to the hospital. Local lawmaker Khin Maung Myint warned that the death toll is expected to rise, but heavy rains forced the rescue efforts to be suspended.

Images from the Myanmar fire service’s Facebook page showed a rescue team pulling bodies out of the mud and carrying them up a steep rock that appears to be flooded.

“The jade miners were suffocated by a wave of mud, which hit after heavy rains,” the country’s fire service said in the Facebook post.

Images from the incident appear to show a wave of water flowing through the well. CNN has not independently verified the video.

The United Nations in Myanmar released a statement saying they were “deeply saddened by the terrible loss of life due to a massive collapse at a mining site in the municipality of Hpakant in Kachin state on the morning of June 2, 2020.”

He praised the “valiant efforts of the men and women involved in the difficult rescue and recovery efforts,” extended his sincere condolences to the families of the victims, and wished the wounded a speedy recovery.

The Myanmar military chief also sent a message of condolence after the incident.

Landslides and other fatal accidents are common in Myanmar’s gemstone mines. Located in thick, remote jungles, many of the country’s jade mines are unregulated. People who work as jade collectors often work in dangerous conditions, going up and down steep hills of rubble and loose shales.

Last year, more than 50 workers were buried in a buried landslide at a jade mine in Hpakant after a lake collapsed. In 2015, at least 113 people died when a jade mine tailings hill, also in Hpakant, collapsed in the huts of sleeping workers.

A gloomy industry

Myanmar produces around 70% of the world’s jade and Hpakant is home to the world’s largest jade mine.

Jade is believed to be one of Myanmar’s most profitable exports and is worth billions of dollars, largely driven by demand in neighboring China.

Global Witness, a nonprofit organization dedicated to investigating corruption and environmental abuse, estimated the jade industry was worth around $ 31 billion in 2014, nearly half of the country’s official GDP that year.
The exact numbers are unknown as the industry is unregulated, but the advocacy group Natural Resources Governance Institute classified Myanmar’s gemstone sector as one of the most opaque in the world.
Prostitution and drug addiction abound among mining communities. Kachin State has been fighting a major heroin epidemic, and many young people use the drug.
The U.S. State Department alleged in a 2018 report that the gem mining industry in Kachin State employs forced laborers.

Journalist Cape Diamond reported from Yangon, CNN’s Helen Regan wrote from Hong Kong, and Joshua Berlinger contributed reporting and writing.