At Least a Dozen Missing in Latest Hpakant Landslide

By Zarni Mann 26 January 2016

MANDALAY — At least a dozen gems prospectors are missing after a fresh landslide on Monday in Kachin State’s Hpakant jade mining region, the latest in a series of deadly incidents.

According to a local on the scene, two piles of mining waste located between Suttaung and Shansu villages collapsed on Monday afternoon while prospectors were sifting through soil in search of jade overlooked by the large companies that mine the area.

“About 100 prospectors were searching the gems residues there and suddenly the waste pile of Triple Three Company collapsed, and later another pile of Aung Hein Min [company] collapsed,” said Aung Lin, a local prospector who survived the collapse.

“We were a bit far from the collapsing area and we were able to run away to save our lives. But we can’t help others, and could only watch the collapse bury them alive,” he added.

According to local police, the number of missing people could not be confirmed on Tuesday morning and rescuers’ efforts to exhume the bodies are ongoing.

“We are still collecting the data and can’t confirm the exact number yet. But we believe more than a dozen are missing,” said a police officer from the Lon Kin police station.

According to law enforcement authorities, rescuers are attempting to dig out bodies but face the risk of more debris collapsing as a result.

“They are trying to exhume the bodies but the waste pile keeps collapsing so that it is now very dangerous for rescue works. We believe the rescue works will take about two or three days,” said the officer.

Deadly landslides are common among the jade mines of Hpakant Township. Locals complain that the frequency of incidences has increased in recent months, however, amid a flurry of excavation from big companies, many Chinese, that reportedly fear their window for exploiting the region’s rich jade deposits could close when a new government takes power in April.

At least six deadly landslides have occurred in the region since mid-December. They were preceded by a massive collapse on Nov. 21 that killed at least 113 people, the deadliest incident in years.