Landslide of jade mining waste kills at least 13 in Myanmar

AP News
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Posted: May 06, 2016 7:54 AM

HPAKANT, Myanmar (AP) — At least 13 people have been killed by a landslide of jade mining waste in northern Myanmar, a hospital said Friday. More people may still be buried under the waste.

The accident occurred late Thursday in Hpakant, the center of Myanmar's lucrative jade mining industry in Kachin state.

Jade is mined with heavy equipment that leaves behind small pieces in waste soil that is piled into huge mounds. People who settle near the mounds to scavenge pieces from the towering piles are at risk when landslides occur.

Sai Nyunt Lwin of the Hpakant township hospital said 13 bodies had been brought there from Seng Tawng jade mining village.

More than 100 people were killed in a similar landslide last November, the worst such accident in recent memory.

"This happens all the time and now it has come to my relatives," said Aung Ram, who lost eight family members in the accident. "We cannot do anything except to pray for their souls and we don't even know who to blame. We are going to bury them tomorrow."

Landslides and deaths around the area's jade mines have become almost common in Hpakant, where as much as 90 percent of the world's jade is mined, most of it to meet the high demand from neighboring China.

According to a report last October by Global Witness, the resource watchdog group, Myanmar's jade industry generated an estimated $31 billion in 2014 with much of the benefit going to the military elites and drug lords.

Calls for safety measures to be enforced after deadly accidents in the past year have gone largely unheeded.