Locals Point to Govt Mismanagement After 40 Go Missing In Hpakant Landslide

Landslides are common in the jade-rich area, which locals say has been exploited by big companies and neglected by government.


Thursday, July 26, 2018

At least 40 people are missing after a landslide at a jade mining site in Kachin State’s Hpakant Township, according to local sources.

The incident occurred near Hpar Pyin and Mamong villages at around 5 a.m. on July 24. According to U Kaung San, secretary of the ruling National League for Democracy party in Hpakant, the number of individuals who could not be located was currently around 40; family members confirmed that 28 people were missing.

“Some people have been killed,” U Kaung San told NMG, naming the company conducting mining in the area as Ayar Yadana Company.

According to locals, the slope where the landslide occurred is particularly steep, making it difficult for rescue workers to undertake a mission to locate missing people and bodies under the mud. Landslides are common in the jade-rich area, with people pointing to overzealous mining and the use of explosives to access jade buried within the mountains.

Ko Sagi from the Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG) told NMG that mine workers, Hpakant locals and lone jade pickers are particularly vulnerable to such disasters.

“I don’t think the government has the capacity to manage it. Nobody is allowed to unearth the dead bodies. They don’t have techniques to do this,” he said. “The government doesn’t have any capacity to control these bad things, or any techniques to solve this problem.”

Government bodies should investigate whether jade mining companies follow safety rules and regulations, and take action against those who violate them, Ko Sagi added.

“If the government wants to protect people, they should stop giving permission to big companies which over-extract [jade] through the use of big machines and extreme explosions,” he told NMG. “This area is already destroyed. If the government cannot stop [largescale mining] now, people will continue to face this kind of tragedy.”

The Hpakant landslide is the second such incident this month—another in Lon Khin village tract occurred on July 14, killing at least 16 mine workers, injuring 20 people, and leaving another 100 missing.