More than 100 jade workers were killed in Myanmar when a mine hill collapsed over the weekend, state media reported.
Rescue workers recovered 103 bodies by Sunday evening in Hpakant, Kachin while one victim who had been rushed to the hospital died there, state-run The Global New Light of Myanmar said. The death toll is expected to rise with many more still missing. The landslide occurred in the early hours of Saturday, burying the makeshift huts where the jade workers slept.
The northern state of Kachin is the source of some of the world’s highest-quality jade with its neighbor China fueling demand. Myanmar’s jade industry generated an estimated $31 billion last year, according to a report released last month by Global Witness, an advocacy group for greater transparency in the mining and resources sector.
While that number equals to about half of Myanmar’s official GDP, little of that goes back to benefit jade workers, the report added. Most of the jade-mining profits are funneled to a select few with ties to Myanmar’s former military rulers.
Global Witness analyst Juman Kubba said the incident was just one in a series of jade mining tragedies.
“They’ve have recorded at least three landslides this year. The scale of this and the fact that it has attracted global attention, we hope it will be a game-changer and for the new government to affect real change — and crucially, why it is that these companies are not being held accountable for their actions?” she said.
Many jade mining companies dump soil inappropriately on lakes and streams or in huge mounds prone to collapsing, the Global Witness report said.
“You’ve got these huge companies extracting on an absolutely massive scale and their activities lead to impact like landslide and that is fundamentally wrong,” Kubba said.