(Reuters) – Dozens of people are feared to disappear 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 around 4 am (21:30 GMT on Tuesday) and there are fears that about 80 people were taken to the lake by mining waste, a Kachin Network Development Foundation official said.
“Authorities arrived at the scene around 7 am and are conducting a search,” Dashi Naw Lawn, a civil society group official, said by telephone, adding that no bodies have been found so far.
News portal Mizzima and media Khit Thit also reported that dozens were missing in the incident in Hpakant, which is the center of a mysterious jade industry in Myanmar. In another landslide last weekend, the media reported that at least six people were killed.
Deadly landslides and other accidents are common in the poorly regulated Hpakant mines, which attract impoverished workers from all over Myanmar in search of gems mainly for export to China.
Economic pressures over the COVID-19 pandemic have attracted more migrants to jade mines, although the conflict has erupted since Myanmar’s army took power in a coup in February.
The ousted government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi promised 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 crashed into a lake.
Myanmar produces 90% of the world’s jade. Most come from Hpakant, where rights groups say mining companies affiliated with military elites and ethnic armed groups make billions of dollars a year.
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