Nearly 100 People Believed To Be Missing In Hpakant Landslide

The incident may be the most deadly to occur in the jade mines this year.


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Around 100 people are thought to be missing following a landslide in a jade mine in Kachin State’s Hpakant Township on Monday according to the locally based Greenland Environmental Conservation Group.

Nawng Latt, who works with Greenland, said that a mud pool in an old jade block belonging to the Unity Company collapsed. It was located near the villages of Balakha and Maw Wan Gyi.

“The mud pool collapsed while laborers from the Kachin National Development Company, the Chaung Brothers Company, the Myanmar Thura Company and the Nine Dragons Company were working in their jade blocks at around 11:30 p.m. [on Monday],” he told NMG.

By Tuesday, three bodies had been recovered. From Myanmar Thura, 28 staff are missing along with 11 backhoes, 10 trucks, and five bulldozers. From the Nine Dragons company, 26 staff, five backhoes and nine trucks are missing. It is unknown how many people are missing from the other two companies, placing estimates at around 100 in total.

According to locals, civil society organizations, firefighters, volunteer groups and the authorities have been searching for the victims. The government’s information ministry has reported that a rescue mission is underway to locate those who are buried in the mud.

“It’s really difficult to start the rescue mission because of deep mud,” local man Ko Naing Naing told NMG. “Rainy season is coming soon. It’s like soil and stones have gathered in the pool. It’s not hard enough, so it collapsed.”

Greenland estimates that this landslide has been the most deadly of three similar incidents that have already occurred in Hpakant this year.

Mudslides and the collapse of mud pools frequently happen in the jade mining blocks, with the number of casualties increasing every year, according to locals. Even though laws and regulations regarding gem extraction have been drawn up, in practice, they are frequently not enforced, leading to environmental damage and disasters like landslides.

“The government has a responsibility. Because of ineffective management, the casualty rate is getting higher in the Hpakant area. Companies have committed a lot of misconduct,” Nawng Latt said. “If a company cannot afford to continue digging into a jade block, they leave that block and it fills with water in the rainy season. Then it turns into a mud pool in the summer. The jade blocks are very close together. The government and officials need better management.”

Greenland said that they would like to see the current National League for Democracy government take further action against undisciplined jade mining companies.