Fifth Hpakant Landslide in One-Month Span Kills Three

By The Irrawaddy 13 January 2016

A fifth landslide in the span of a month at the jade mines of Kachin State’s Hpakant Township reportedly killed three people on Tuesday night.

The landslide occurred at about 10 pm on Tuesday, when local “hand-pickers” scavenging in the dark for the precious stone were at work at a mining waste dump site near Seik Mu village, according to Shwe Thein, a Seik Mu villager.

“There were two landslides, which claimed the lives of three. My colleagues are going to the sites and we don’t know yet how many more were there,” he told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.

The soil dump collapse took place near the location of a devastating landslide in November, when at least 114 small-scale miners were killed. Since that disaster, three less deadly landslides have occurred over the last month, the latest on Jan. 7.

The jade prospectors, whose scavenging in Hpakant is technically illegal, were warned off further hand-picking in the area by authorities in the aftermath of the November tragedy.

On Wednesday morning, local relief activists were headed to the scene of the latest landslide, but said they were not optimistic about prospects for carrying out an extensive search for additional victims, as the instability of the terrain made digging risky.

Law Raw, a local witness, said Tuesday’s landslide was triggered as a dump truck was depositing mining waste at the site of the disaster. These “fresh” dumps attract crowds of hand-pickers eager to comb through the debris for jade missed by the large companies responsible for the mining waste.

Both the current Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) government and its incoming National League for Democracy (NLD) successor have pledged to tighten regulation of the Hpakant’s jade mines in an effort to reduce deadly incidents like the landslides that have occurred with some regularity in recent years.