Dozens Feared Dead After Landslide at Jade Mine in Myanmar

A landslide on Wednesday at a jade mine in northern Myanmar killed one person and left more than 70 others missing, according to a civil society group and local media reports.

The disaster, in the Hpakant area of Kachin State, occurred around 4 a.m. local time, when dozens of people were swept into a lake by mining waste, an official at the Kachin Network Development Foundation said.

“Authorities arrived at the site around 7 a.m. and are conducting the search,” Dashi Naw Lawn, an official at the civil society group, said by telephone.

Myanmar produces 90 percent of the world’s jade, and Hpakant is the center of the country’s secretive jade industry, where, rights groups say, mining firms with links to military officials and ethnic armed groups make billions of dollars a year.

Deadly landslides and other accidents are common in the poorly regulated mines, which draw impoverished workers from across Myanmar in search of gems, most of which are exported to China. Last weekend, at least six people died in another mine landslide, according to local reports. And in July last year, more than 170 people, many of them migrants, died in one of the worst disasters in Hpakant after mining waste collapsed into a lake.

Economic pressures because of the coronavirus pandemic have drawn more migrants to the jade mines, even though conflicts have flared since Myanmar’s military seized power in a coup in February.

The ousted government had pledged to clean up the industry when it took power in 2016, but activists say little has changed.

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