by Greg Klein | November 22, 2015
With more victims still unaccounted for, rescuers so far have pulled 104 bodies from a landslide in northern Myanmar, local media reported. The Global New Light of Myanmar stated a hill of soil extracted from a jade mine collapsed early November 22, burying around 70 huts housing small-scale miners and their families.
The inhabitants were in the area to search mine waste for jade, the paper added. They had been warned of landslide risks around Hpakant in Kachin state, home to the world’s biggest jade mining operations.
Last month Myanmar’s jade industry came under fire from Global Witness for corruption, degrading the environment and funding violence. Because of the industry’s practices, “mountains have become valleys and valleys have become mountains,” one Hpakant source told Global Witness.
In June Radio Free Asia reported at least five landslides had occurred at jade mining sites in the first half of the year. At least 20 people died in a January landslide, Global Witness stated.
The group’s 12-month investigation found large jade operations were controlled by families and cronies of government and military figures, people connected to the former junta, drug lords and rebel militias fighting a conflict that’s killed thousands of people since 2011.
An upbeat story about jade in the same issue of the Global New Light of Myanmar said the industry contributes US$2 billion to $3 billion a year to the government. Global Witness stated the big mines made at least $12 billion last year, probably closer to $31 billion.
Earlier this month the country held its first free elections in 25 years, won by the opposition party of Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years under house arrest during military rule. But, according to a New York Times analysis, she might be forced to co-operate with former junta officers who still wield influence in the transitional government.
The Global New Light of Myanmar reported more fighting between the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Defence Services) and rebel Kachin Independence Army between November 15 and 19.