More than 50 feared killed in landslide at Myanmar jade mine

Myanmar officer said 54 people are still missing in the mud. (AFP)
Updated 23 April 2019

More than 50 feared killed in landslide at Myanmar jade mine

  • Authorities have only recovered two bodies
  • The area was mined by Myanmar Thura Gems and Shwe Nagar Koe Kaung companies

YANGON, Myanmar: More than 50 people were feared dead after a landslide in northern Myanmar engulfed jade miners while they were sleeping, local police said Tuesday, the latest deadly accident in a notoriously dangerous industry.
Dozens die each year in landslides caused by jade mining, a poorly regulated industry rife with corruption and sandwiched between the country’s borders with China and India.
Local police described a freak accident in Kachin state on Monday night so big it created a huge “mud lake” that buried the miners as well as some 40 vehicles.
“Fifty-four people are missing in the mud,” a duty officer from Hpakant township police station told AFP, asking not to be named.
“There’s no way they (the missing) could have survived.”
Only two bodies had been recovered so far.
The Ministry of Information confirmed the accident and number of missing, adding that the area was mined by Myanmar Thura Gems and Shwe Nagar Koe Kaung companies.
Myanmar Thura Gems director Hla Soe Oo told AFP by phone he was on his way to the site and had no further details.
Local media shared images, unverified by AFP, that showed the walls of a mine stretching vertically a couple of hundred meters above a vast pool of mud, revealing only the tops of two yellow excavation vehicles.
Hundreds of onlookers gathered nearby, staring at the site and taking photos with their phones.
The open jade mines in Kachin’s Hpakant township have turned the remote area into a vast moonscape-like terrain.
Fatal landslides in the area are common with victims often from impoverished ethnic communities looking for scraps left behind by big firms.
A major collapse in November 2015 left more than 100 dead.
In July last year, the bodies of 23 landslide victims were recovered after a days-long search hampered by heavy monsoon rains.
The jade industry is largely driven by insatiable demand from neighboring China, where the translucent green gemstone has long been prized.
Watchdog Global Witness estimated that the industry was worth some $31 billion in 2014, although very little reaches state coffers.
Northern Myanmar’s abundant natural resources — including jade, timber, gold and amber — help finance both sides of a decades-long civil war between ethnic Kachin insurgents and the military.
The fight to control the mines and the revenues they bring frequently traps local civilians in the middle.
A 17-year cease-fire broke down in 2011, and since then more than 100,000 people have been displaced by fighting — some of them multiple times.
On coming to power in 2016, civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi promised to make the peace process with the country’s myriad armed groups her top priority — a pledge that has yet to yield significant results.


US will not lift sanctions to negotiate with Iran

Updated 50 min 52 sec ago

US will not lift sanctions to negotiate with Iran

  • Zarif said Iran is still open to negotiations with US if sanctions are lifted
  • Tensions between the two have been increasing steadily since Trump pulled the United States out of Iran’s nuclear pact

DUBAI: The United States will not lift sanctions on Iran in order to negotiate, US President Donald Trump tweeted late on Saturday, seemingly in response to a Der Spiegel interview with Iran’s foreign minister.
“Iranian Foreign Minister says Iran wants to negotiate with The United States, but wants sanctions removed. @FoxNews @OANN No Thanks!” Trump tweeted in English on Saturday and later in Farsi.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded on Sunday by tweeting an excerpt from the interview with Der Spiegel published on Friday, where he said Iran is still open to negotiations with America if sanctions are lifted.
“@realdonaldtrump is better advised to base his foreign policy comments & decisions on facts, rather than @FoxNews headlines or his Farsi translators,” Zarif said in the tweet with the interview excerpt.
Tensions between Iran and the United States have reached the highest levels in decades after the US killed top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad on Jan. 3, prompting Iran to fire missiles days later at bases in Iraq where US troops are stationed.
Tensions between the two have been increasing steadily since Trump pulled the United States out of Iran’s nuclear pact with world powers in 2018 and reimposed sanctions that have driven down Iran’s oil exports and hammered its economy.