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  • A view of a jade mine dump at a Hpakant jade mine in Kachin state, Myanmar November 25, 2015.

    A view of a jade mine dump at a Hpakant jade mine in Kachin state, Myanmar November 25, 2015. | Photo: Reuters

Published 29 July 2019

The death toll is expected to continue rising as the search-and-rescue operation is still ongoing.

Rescue efforts continued Monday in the search for survivors amid the debris following a landslide inside a jade mine in northern Myanmar, from which at least 18 bodies have been recovered so far.

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The local fire department said that the accident occurred on Sunday at the mine, located near the village of Kayin Chaung, in the northern state of Kachin.

Authorities reported that 15 employees of the Yaza Htarni Jade Mining Company and three policemen who were providing security were killed, while another two police officers were injured.

Yet this is a common occurrence in Myanmar as accidents inside jade mines have happened before. 

In April, at least 54 people died in another accident at a mine in Hpakant, a remote area located about 800 kilometers north of the capital, Naypyidaw.

The non-profit Global Witness denounced in 2015 the precarious situation in which jade miners work in sites that are often exploited by guerrilla organizations, warlords, drug traffickers and corrupt members of the army, among other groups.

Tens of thousands of Myanmar youth come to Hpakant, the so-called "Land of Jade," with the hope of escaping poverty and making money through jade mining. Many of these migrant workers become addicted to cheap heroin and other drugs.

While the Hpakant area is a harsh and poor region, it generates vasts amounts of wealth for the elites, as buried within its soil are significant deposits of the rare mineral jadeite, the world's highest-quality type of jade.

A group of community organizations wrote to President Win Myint in September last year, warning of the dangers of an “unlawful situation” in the region.

The letter raised concerns about environmental damage from mining, the overuse of dynamite, and violent crime and drug abuse going unchecked in the area. “Many people have also been killed by landfill collapses because of dumping earth without discipline,” the letter stated. 

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