Landslide kills up to 70, leave 100 missing in Myanmar

November 23, 2015 9:30 am

 This photo from last month shows miners digging for raw jade stones next to a jade mine in Hpakant. Photo / Getty

A landslide near a jade mine in northern killed up to 70
people and left more than 100 missing, most of them villagers sifting
through a huge mountain of tailings and waste, a community leader and
businessman said Sunday.
The collapse occurred Saturday afternoon
in Kachin state, said Brang Seng, a jade businessman, describing rows
of bodies pulled from the debris.
“There were more than 70,” he said. “This is awfully bad.”
More than 100 others were missing, said Lamai Gum Ja, a community leader who also has interests in the mining business.
Myanmar only recently started moving from a half-century of dictatorship to democracy.
Hpakant,
the epicenter of the country’s jade boom, remains desperately poor,
with bumpy dirt roads and constant electricity blackouts.

The region bordering China is home to some of the world’s
highest quality jade, bringing in billions of dollars a year, though
researchers say most of that money goes to individuals and companies
tied to Myanmar’s former military rulers.
Informal miners risk and often lose their lives digging through scraps of the giant mines.
“Large
companies, many of them owned by families of former generals, army
companies, cronies and drug lords are making tens or hundreds of
millions of dollars a year through their plunder of Hpakant,” said Mike
Davis of Global Witness, a group that investigates the misuse of revenue
from natural resources.
He said that “scores of people at a time are buried alive in landslides.”

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