Tag Archives: Jade Mine

Tears as ‘Jade Mine Landslide’ claim over 170 lives in Myanmar

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Rescue operations continue for a fourth day in the country’s worst ever jade mine landslide, as more bodies are buried.


Mandalay, Myanmar – Aye Mon, 30, is left alone with a two-year-old daughter after her husband and younger brother died in Myanmar’s worst jade mine landslide that killed more than 170 people on Thursday.

In hopes of finding gems that might transform his future, her brother, Shwe Moe Tun, 22, had travelled more than 600km (370 miles) from his village in Monywa to Hpakant area of Kachin state in northern Myanmar, home to a secretive billion-dollar jade industry.

Relatives of a victim mourn during a mass funeral service for the victims of the landslide at the jade mining site [Zaw Moe Htet/EPA]

“My husband had been working in the jade mining business for more than 10 years. But it was the first time for my brother. It was his second working day in the mine,” Aye Mon said to Media

At least 40 jade pickers killed in the disaster at Wai Khar mine were buried on Saturday, the country’s fire services department said on their Facebook page, while 77 others were interred in a mass grave on Friday.

Many more were cremated according to Buddhist traditions.

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Rescue operations were still ongoing for the fourth day on Sunday as bodies of the victims were still being recovered from the site of the accident.

Aye Mon’s husband Soe Min, 31, and her brother were among hundreds of jade pickers at the mine when the disaster struck as heavy rains filled the mine with water, creating a lake.

A wall of the mine crashed into the lake, with the huge wave of mud resulting in the deadly landslide.

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“My husband and my brother were both buried yesterday [Saturday]. I have nothing to depend on in my life. All I have left is just my two-year-old daughter,” Aye Mon said.

In search of jadeite, a stone exported across the border into China, migrants from across Myanmar travel hundreds of kilometres to Hpakant, in hope of finding the overlooked pieces of jade.

The bodies of miners in wooden coffins and wrapped up in bags pictured in a mass grave before being buried [Ye Aung Thu/AFP]

The Wai Khar mine had officially shut down because of the danger of landslides, the Hpakant member of parliament, Khin Aung Myint said.

But unauthorised jade pickers, who are expected to pay a share of their earnings to rebel groups operating in the area, still flocked to the mine.

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The jade industry is largely controlled by firms linked to Myanmar’s powerful military and the trade is worth billions of dollars a year.

Rights group Global Witness says the trade funds fuel the armed conflict between government troops and ethnic Kachin rebels fighting for self-rule in the region.

It also said the landslide was a “damning indictment of the government’s failure to curb reckless and irresponsible mining practices”.

‘No words to describe his death’
Win Kyaw, 44, worked as an unauthorised jade picker for 20 years and managed to find pieces that were only worth $10-$15. He said his son, Kyaw Myat Moe, 20, who was killed in the landslide, had managed to find two big pieces but those were taken away from them.

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“My son got two big stones last year but a group of soldiers from the Myanmar army took them from him. If we find a big stone, they always come and ask for it,” Win Kyaw told Media known to Noble Reporters Media.

On the day of the accident, Win Kyaw had asked his son to go to work without him as he had some other business to handle.

Myanmar soldiers and Red Cross workers carry a body recovered from the site of a landslide [Ye Aung Thu/AFP]

After he heard the news of the landslide, Win Kyaw rushed to the location only to find his son’s body smothered in mud.

“It is a huge loss for the family as we only had one son,” he said. “I have no words to describe his death. I feel lost. It’s like our legs were broken.”

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The distraught father said his nephew helped him in making a wooden coffin for his son. “We buried him yesterday [Saturday],” he said.

Despite the risks, thousands of workers, including Win Kyaw, are still ready to go back to the mines to scour for precious stones in desperation with hopes to strike it rich.

Officials say that makes it harder to prevent disasters like the one that occurred on Thursday.

“I will keep working here. This is the place of my son’s death. I won’t go back until I become rich” Win Kyaw said.


#Newsworthy…

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Jade Mine: 113 die in Myanmar landslide

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The miners were ‘smothered by a wave of mud’ caused by heavy rain, officials say.


A landslide at a jade mine in northern Myanmar has killed at least 113 people, officials say, warning the death toll was likely to rise further.

The incident took place early on Thursday in the jade-rich Hpakant area of Kachin state after a bout of heavy rainfall, the Myanmar Fire Services Department said on Facebook.

“The jade miners were smothered by a wave of mud,” the statement said. “A total of 113 bodies have been found so far.”

Photos posted on the Facebook page showed a search and rescue team wading through a valley apparently flooded by the mudslide.

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‘No one could help them’
Maung Khaing, a 38-year-old miner from the area, said he saw a towering pile of waste that looked on the verge of collapse and was about to take a picture when people began shouting “run, run!”

“Within a minute, all the people at the bottom [of the hill] just disappeared,” he told Reuters news agency by phone.

“I feel empty in my heart. I still have goosebumps … There were people stuck in the mud shouting for help, but no one could help them.”

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Tar Lin Maung, a local official with the information ministry, said authorities had recovered more than 100 bodies.

“Other bodies are in the mud. The numbers are going to rise,” he told Reuters.

Photos showed a search and rescue team wading through a valley apparently flooded by the mudslide [Fire Services Department Handout/Reuters]

Fatal landslides are common in the poorly regulated mines of Hpakant, the victims often from impoverished communities who risk their lives hunting the translucent green gemstone.

The government of Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi pledged to clean up the industry when it took power in 2016, but activists say little has changed.

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Official sales of jade in Myanmar were worth $750.4m in 2016-2017, according to data published by the government as part of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

But experts believe the true value of the industry, which mainly exports to China, is much larger.

The incident took place in the jade-rich Hpakant area of Kachin state [Handout/Myanmar Fire Services Department]

Northern Myanmar’s abundant natural resources – including jade, timber, gold and amber – have also helped finance both sides of a decades-long conflict between ethnic Kachin and the military.

The fight to control the mines and the revenues they bring frequently traps local civilians in the middle.


#Newsworthy…

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