Dozens of people missing after Myanmar mine landslide

Mine debris sweeps workers into a lake in the remote town of Hpakant, the centre of Myanmar’s jade industry.

Rescue workers at the site of a deadly landslide in Myanmar
Rescue workers at the site of a deadly landslide at an unregulated jade mine in Hpakant township in northern Myanmar's Kachin state [Tarlin Mg via Facebook/AFP]

Dozens of people are missing after a landslide swept away people working at a jade mine in northern Myanmar, rescue workers say.

The incident occurred on Sunday in Hpakant, a remote mountainous town in Kachin state about 950km (600 miles) north of Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon.

The area is home to the world’s biggest and most lucrative jade mines.

The leader of a local rescue team coordinating search efforts told The Associated Press news agency on Monday that more than 30 miners who were digging for jade were swept into a lake when the landslide hit near Manna village about 3:30pm (09:00 GMT) on Sunday.

He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he feared being arrested by the military, the agency said.

Earth and debris from several mines near the village slid 304 metres (about 1,000ft) down a cliff into the lake below and struck the miners on the way, he said.

He said 34 people were confirmed missing and rescue teams were searching the lake on Monday. Eight miners were injured and taken to a local hospital, he said.

Rescue workers seen at the site of a deadly landslide in Myanmar
The area where the landslide happened is home to the world’s biggest and most lucrative jade mines [Tarlin Mg via Facebook/AFP]

Rescue efforts

More than 100 rescue workers were involved in the search for survivors, a member of the rescue team told the Reuters news agency by phone, declining to be identified due to safety concerns. The agency reported the number of missing people at 36.

A miner who asked not to be identified because he feared for his safety told the AP three of his colleagues who were digging for jade were carried down into the lake by the landslide. He said most of the victims were men.

Similar accidents typically occur on a smaller scale. The victims are usually independent miners who settle near giant mounds of discarded earth that have been excavated by heavy machinery used by mining companies.

They scavenge for bits of jade and usually work and live in abandoned mining pits at the base of the unstable mounds of earth.

In July 2020, at least 162 people died in a landslide in the same area. An accident in November 2015 killed 113 people.

Human rights activists said jade mining is an important source of revenue for Myanmar’s military-installed government. Opponents of army rule advocate sanctions and boycotts to reduce jade sales.

The mines are also a main source of revenue for the Kachin Independence Army, an armed ethnic group that is based in Kachin state and has been fighting for decades against the central government for greater autonomy.

Source: News Agencies