Sunday, 27 December 2015

Dozens feared dead as another landslide hits Myanmar's jade mines

Dozens of people are feared missing or dead after a landslide hit a jade mining region in Myanmar’s northern Kachin state.

Officials say a search for survivors and bodies is continuing after Friday’s accident in the area around Hpakant.

Last month, 114 people were killed in the same area after a massive landslide.

Jade mining produces piles of waste rock. Migrant workers climb the heaps to search for the gem stone.

Local official Tint Swe Myint told the Bangkok Post that five bodies had already been found.

“According to witnesses, about 50 people are still missing,” he said.

Sai Lon, who works at a mining company in the area, said: “We heard about 50 people were buried in the collapsed dump and four or five bodies were found this morning.”

Local police could not offer any details about the number of casualties.

“We haven’t heard anything from the rescue team yet,” said a duty officer at the Hpakant township police station who declined to give his name to news agency Reuters.

In November’s disaster, many of those killed were people who made their living scavenging on or near the waste dumps left by large-scale industrial mining firms.

The value of jade produced in 2014 alone was £21bn - the equivalent of nearly half of Myanmar’s (Burma’s) GDP - yet hardly any of the money reaches ordinary people.

Deaths in the jade mines, where small-time prospectors and big companies vie for the precious stone, underscore the sector’s lax safety rules and lack of accountability.

Although the United States eased most of the ban on imports from the country when a quasi-civilian government took power in 2011 after five decades of military dictatorship, an American ban on Myanmar jade remains in place over concerns that jade mining benefits military figures and fuels corruption and human rights abuses.

Sunday 27 December 2015


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