Dozens are missing and feared dead after a landslide struck a remote jade mining region in northern Myanmar on December 25. It was the second such incident to hit the country’s jade industry in five weeks.
The landslide occurred in Kachin state’s mining community of Hpakant. Kachin is home to some of the world’s highest-quality jade and the industry generated an estimated $31 billion last year, with most of the wealth going to individuals and companies tied to Myanmar’s former military rulers, according to Global Witness, a group that investigates misuse of resource revenues.
Hpakant, 950km northeast of Myanmar’s capital Yangon, is the industry’s epicentre but remains desperately poor with dirt roads, constant blackouts and high heroin addiction rates.
A local member of the opposition National League for Democracy party who joined rescue crews on Saturday told the media that according to rescuers, one body was pulled from the rubble and at least 30 people were missing. He said the steep terrain was complicating search efforts.
A police officer in Hpakant said search operations continued all day Saturday without any bodies being discovered. “We are still trying to dig up the landslide. We don’t know yet if there are dead people or not. We’re doing it because we are worried people could be trapped inside.”
A November 21 landslide in the same region killed more than 100 people and highlighted the perilous conditions created by a breakneck effort to dig up the world’s richest deposits of jade.
Most of the victims in November’s disaster were itinerant jade pickers and their families who made a living scavenging for scraps of jade in the debris left behind by mining companies.