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Heavy Rain Triggered Landslide Kils 162 Illegal Jade Miners in Myanmar

Mining News - Published on Fri, 03 Jul 2020

Image Source: Jade Mining Accident Mayanmar
A landslide at a jade mine in northern Myanmar killed at least 162 people, with more feared dead, after a heap of mining waste collapsed into a lake, triggering a wave of mud and water that buried many workers. The miners were collecting stones in the jade-rich Hpakant area of Kachin state when the muddy wave crashed onto them, after heavy rain. The jade miners were smothered by a wave of mud. Video footage on social media showed frantic miners racing uphill to escape as a towering pile of black waste cascaded into a turquoise lake, churning up a tsunami-like wave of mud. Rescuers recovered 162 bodies and 54 injured people by 7.15 PM local time on Thursday. Other bodies are in the mud and the number of dead is going to rise.

Hpakant is a rough and remote area in Kachin state, 950 kilometers north of Myanmar’s biggest city Yangon.

The London-based environmental watchdog Global Witness said the accident is a damning indictment of the government”s failure to curb reckless and irresponsible mining practices in Kachin state’s jade mines. It said “The government should immediately suspend large-scale, illegal and dangerous mining in Hpakant and ensure companies that engage in these practices are no longer able to operate. The multi-billion dollar sector is dominated by powerful military-linked companies, armed groups and cronies that have been allowed to operate without effective social and environmental controls for years.”

Deadly landslides and other accidents are common in the poorly regulated mines of Hpakant, which draw impoverished workers from across Myanmar, but this is the worst in more than five years. The death toll surpasses that of a November 2015 accident that left 113 dead and was previously considered the country’s worst. In that case, the victims died when a 60-meter high mountain of earth and waste discarded by several mines tumbled in the middle of the night, covering more than 70 huts where miners slept. The government of Aung San Suu Kyi pledged to clean up the industry when it took power in 2016, but activists say little has changed.

Those killed in such accidents are usually freelance miners who settle near giant mounds of discarded earth that has been excavated by heavy machinery. The freelancers who scavenge for bits of jade usually work and live in abandoned mining pits at the base of the mounds of earth, which become particularly unstable during the rainy season. Most scavengers are unregistered migrants from other areas, making it hard to determine exactly how many people are actually missing after such accidents and in many cases leaving the relatives of the dead in their home villages unaware of their fate.

The most detailed estimate of Myanmar’s jade industry said it generated about USD 31 billion in 2014.

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Posted By : Yogender Pancholi on Fri, 03 Jul 2020
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