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Myanmar Mine Landslide Kills Scores; Many Still Missing


A landslide near a jade mine in northern Myanmar killed more than 90 people, and there are fears for at least 100 others who are still missing, reported BBC.

Kachin state is home to valuable deposits of high-quality jade.

Zin Mar Aung, an official at the Relief and Resettlement Ministry in Kachin state, said around 90 bodies had been recovered by Sunday evening from the site of the landslide, which buried dozens of huts in Hpakant, a town known for its vast jade mines. He said they are still searching for more bodies.

The collapse occurred Saturday evening in the Kachin state community of Hpakant, Brang Seng, a jade businessman told NBC, who watched as bodies were pulled from the debris and taken to a hospital morgue.

“People were crying,” he said, adding that some lost loved ones when boulders and earth ripped down the slopes. “I’m hearing that more than 100 people died. In some cases, entire families were lost.”

Mr. Zin Mar Aung, the local official, said that the cause of the landslide, which occurred Saturday, was still being fully investigated. However, it was likely caused by excessive mining in the area, which has led to large piles of soil and waste being dumped in an unstable way. No heavy rains or unusual weather has been reported in the area.

The victims were largely poor, rural villagers sifting through soil for deposits of jade, underscoring the need for more scrutiny around a lucrative, but unregulated industry. Jade mining attracts thousands of migrant workers from across Myanmar, all drawn to the dangerous job of unearthing the precious green rocks.

A report from Global Witness, a group that investigates misuse of natural resources, says the industry was worth up to $31 billion in 2014 and is controlled by elites and government officials linked to the previous ruling junta.

“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.

“Their legacy to local people is a dystopian wasteland in which scores of people at a time are buried alive in landslides,” he said.

It was unclear exactly who owned the mines surrounding the site of Saturday’s landslide. The jade industry in Myanmar is almost completely run by associates of the former junta, as well as smaller ethnic armed militias operating in the area.

Myanmar held historic elections on Nov. 8, which has ushered in a largely civilian-led government for the first time in the country’s recent history. Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy defeated the former generals, winning a majority of seats in the legislature.

Her government will take power on Jan. 31.

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