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.


Global civil unrest and violence in quarter of countries in 2019, expected to rise in 2020: Report

Updated 17 January 2020

Global civil unrest and violence in quarter of countries in 2019, expected to rise in 2020: Report

  • Identified Sudan as most troubled and “extreme risk” country in the world
  • According to the report, 2019’s biggest flashpoint locations were Hong Kong and Chile

LONDON: Nearly a quarter of the world’s nations witnessed a rise in unrest and violence in 2019 with the figure expected to rise in 2020, according to a study released earlier this week.

Verisk Maplecroft, a socio-economic and political analysis company, said in its index of global civil unrest that 47 of the world’s 195 countries were affected and that the number could hit 75 in the year ahead.

The UK-based consultancy firm identified Sudan as the most troubled and “extreme risk” country in the world, which had previously been held by Yemen.

According to the report, 2019’s biggest flashpoint locations were Hong Kong and Chile and neither is expected to be “at peace” for at least two years its researchers claim.

“The reasons for the surge in violent unrest are complex and diverse. In Hong Kong, protests erupted in June 2019 over a proposed bill that would have allowed the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China, However, the root cause of discontent has been the rollback of civil and political rights since 1997,” the firm said.

“In Chile, protests have been driven by income inequality and high living costs but were triggered by a seemingly trivial 30-peso (USD0.04) increase in the price of metro tickets,” it added.

Other countries now considered hotbeds unrest include Lebanon, Nigeria and Bolivia. Asia and Africa are disproportionately represented with countries such as Ethiopia, India, Pakistan and Zimbabwe also coming under the “extreme risk” label.

Since authoritarian leader Omar Al-Bashir was overthrown in April, Sudan was gripped by protests, violence and killings as armed forces battled democracy supporters for control of the new government.

The index predicts that a further 28 countries examined will see a “deterioration in stability,” suggesting that nearly 40% of all countries will witness disruption and unrest at some point in 2020.

Ukraine, Guinea Bissau and Tajikistan are all expected to see the sharpest rises in unrest, but the report highlights growing concern in the world’s biggest and most powerful countries as well.


Countries identified include the hugely influential nations of Russia, China, Turkey, Brazil and Thailand.

Maplecroft says there will be increased pressure on global firms to exercise corporate responsibility, especially those in countries “rich in natural resources where mining and energy projects often need high levels of protection.”

“However, companies are at substantial danger of complicity if they employ state or private security forces that perpetrate violations,” the report added.