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Myanmar’s Jade Scavengers Use Heroin to Relieve Pain

In Hpakant, Kachin state, Myanmar, producer of some of world's highest quality jade, narcotics addiction is common among gem scavengers.

Myanmar miners search for jade stones at a mine dump in Hpakant, Kachin state, Myanmar on Nov. 25, 2015. Using heavy earth-excavators and explosives, miners have been tearing into Myanmar's northern hills in recent months, in a rush to excavate more jade from the world's richest deposits of the gemstone before a new government takes office. Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters
Trucks are used for transportation at jade stone mine dumps in Hpakant, Kachin state on Nov. 25, 2015. Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters
Miners search for jade stones at a Hpakant jade mine dump at night in Kachin state, on Nov. 24, 2015. Gem scavengers or "handpickers" flock to Hpakant, Kachin state, producer of some of the world's highest quality jade, in the hope of finding lumps of the precious stone overlooked by big miners. Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters
Even under a new NLD government led by Aung San Suu Kyi, the military will retain formal control over the ministries of defense, border affairs and home affairs. Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters
Myanmar miners watch as an excavator operator works on a mine dump in Hpakant on Nov. 28, 2015. Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters
Seen from inside an excavator, Myanmar miners work on a jade mine dump in Hpakant on Nov. 27, 2015. Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters
A miner carries a stone in Hpakant on Nov. 29, 2015. Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters
A buyer checks a jade stone in Hpakant on Nov. 29, 2015. Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters
Narcotics addiction is rife among the gem scavengers. When gems elude them, some start using heroin to help survive the harsh working conditions, often openly injecting themselves. Above, a miner holds in his hands a jade stone and a syringe to use heroin in Hpakant on Nov. 29, 2015. Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters
A miner injects heroin into his veins on Nov. 29, 2015. The boom in Hpakant's population coincided with an exponential rise in opium production in Myanmar, the world's second-largest producer after Afghanistan. Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters
Miners take a look at a jade stone while one of them injects himself heroin in Hpakant on Nov. 29, 2015. SOE ZEYA TUN / Reuters
Two miners inject heroin into each other in Hpakant on Nov. 29, 2015. Activists worry about the growing number of serious drug users, especially the young, and say the Myanmar authorities lack the will to tackle the issue. Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters
A person collects used syringes which in Hpakant on Nov. 29, 2015. The drug abuse has led some miners to contract HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters