At least 17 people are feared dead after a landslide trapped dozens of workers inside a Myanmar jade mine owned by the southeast Asian country’s military, sources and local media said on Tuesday.
The incident occurred on Monday evening near Hpakant township in northern Kachin state – the same region where a massive landslide in 2020 entombed 300 workers in the country’s worst ever mine disaster.
Pictures of the scene showed the aftermath of the landslide, with a broad swathe of brown earth and rock covering the pockmarked side of a hill.
A local source said “17 bodies were found so far but local media and sources in the area said that 40 people were buried in the landslide, which struck at about 10:30 pm local time.
The mine’s owners – Yangon Technical and Trading Co., a firm linked to the country’s military which took power last year in a coup that sent the country into turmoil – had so far prevented rescue teams from entering the area.
Dozens of people die annually while working in Myanmar’s highly lucrative but poorly regulated jade industry, which uses low-paid migrant workers to scrape out a gem highly coveted in neighbouring China.
Jade and other abundant natural resources in the country’s north – including timber, gold and amber — have helped finance both sides of a decades-long civil war between ethnic Kachin insurgets and the military.
The military coup in February 2021 also effectively extinguished any chance of reforms to the dangerous and unregulated industry, watchdog Global Witness said in a report this year.
- AFP, with additional editing by George Russell