It is feared that as many as forty people may be buried beneath a landslip at a jade mine in Hpakant in Kachin State, Myanmar, that occurred late on Wednesday 28 December 2016, when a 120 m exposed face on the side of a spoil heap produced by a large mining concern collapsed onto smaller artisanal miners looking for pieces of jade missed by the larger operation.
Artisanal miners on a spoil heap in Hpakant. Al Jazeera.
Myanmar is the world's largest producer of jade, though much of this is produced (along with other precious and semi-precious minerals such as amber) at unregulated (and often illegal) artisanal mines in the north of the country, from where it is smuggled into neighbouring China. Accidents at such mines are extremely common, due to the more-or-less total absence of any safety precautions at the site. At many sites this is made worse by the unregulated use of explosives to break up rocks, often leading to the weakening of rock faces, which can then collapse without warning. The majority of people in this industry are migrant workers from the surrounding countryside, not registered with any local authority, which can make it difficult for rescuers to identify victims following such events, or even gain accurate assessments of the number of people likely to have been involved in such accidents.
The approximate location of the Hpakant jade mines. Google Maps.
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