Nine Jade Scavengers Die in Landslide at Hpakant Mine

Nine men were killed and another one injured by a collapsing slag heap on Thursday as they scavenged jade remnants in a mine in Hpakant township in northern Myanmar’s Kachin state, a local official said.

Township administrator Kyaw Zwa Aung said the owner of the small mine in Nanthmaw village was among the dead.

The bodies of those killed were taken to Hpakant township hospital, he said.

About 200,000 migrant workers search amid dangerous mountains of rubble and tailings in jade mines for pieces of the valuable gemstone left behind in mining operations.

Hpakant, which lies about 400 miles (640 kilometers) north of Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw, is the center of the country’s jade mining industry and produces some of the highest-quality jade in the world.

Much of the gem is exported or smuggled to neighboring China, where demand for the precious stone is high.

Ohn Win, Myanmar’s minister of natural resources and environmental conservation, vowed in August 2016 to keep migrant workers out of Myanmar’s jade mine sites following a series of deadly accidents involving scavengers in Hpakant.

He said the government would start checking the entrances to the mining areas for illegal migrant workers in an effort to stop scavenging activities in the largely unregulated industry.

Representatives from three Kachin state political parties called on the national government last May to adopt a new policy on natural-resource extraction following amid the string of fatal accidents in the country’s jade-mining areas.

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