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Dozens feared missing after landslide at Myanmar jade mine

Deadly accidents are common in the area's mines, which draw poor workers from across the Southeast Asian nation in search of gems mostly for export to China.
Migrant miners living next to a jade mine near Hpakant in Myanmar's Kachin state, July 5, 2020. About 80 people were feared missing after a landslide on Wednesday at a jade mine in the area.AFP via Getty Images
/ Source: Reuters

Dozens of people are feared missing after a landslide early Wednesday at a jade mine in northern Myanmar, according to a civil society group and media reports.

The landslide in the Hpakant area of Kachin State happened at around 4 a.m. (4:30 p.m. Tuesday Eastern) and there were fears that about 80 people had been swept into a lake by mining waste, an official at the Kachin Network Development Foundation said.

"Authorities arrived at the site around 7 a.m. and are conducting the search," Dashi Naw Lawn, an official at the civil society group, said by telephone, adding that no bodies had been found so far.

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The Mizzima news portal and Khit Thit media also reported dozens appeared to be missing in the incident in Hpakant, which is the center of Myanmar's secretive jade industry. In another landslide last weekend, media reported at least six people died.

A landslide at a remote jade mine in northern Myanmar's Kachin state left dozens of people missing and a search and rescue operation was underway.AP

Deadly landslides and other accidents are common in the poorly regulated mines of Hpakant, which draw impoverished workers from across Myanmar in search of gems mostly for export to China.

Economic pressures due to the coronavirus pandemic have drawn more migrants to the jade mines even as conflict has flared since Myanmar's military seized power in a coup in February.

The ousted government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi had pledged to clean up the industry when it took power in 2016, but activists say little has changed.

In July last year, more than 170 people, many of them migrants, died in one of the worst disasters in Hpakant after mining waste collapsed into a lake.

Myanmar produces 90 percent of the world's jade. Most comes from Hpakant, where rights groups say mining firms with links to military elites and ethnic armed groups make billions of dollars a year.