On July 2, Thursday, over 160 miners were killed in the northern Kachin State of Myanmar, while scores remain missing. The disaster occurred when miners were collecting stones in the mountainous terrain of Hpakant township.
“The jade miners were smothered by a wave of mud, which hit after heavy rainfall,” the country’s fire service department said in a Facebook post.
Reuters quoted a member of a local civic group as saying that those killed were “scavenging the waste left by a larger mining company.”
The number of deaths is expected to rise as rescue operations continue. Myanmar is one of the major sources of the world’s jade. Global Witness, an industry watchdog, said that the sector in Myanmar was worth $41 billion in 2014. However, the industry has a history of equipment failures and other accidents. Last year, over 50 miners lost their lives at mining sites across the country. While conditions are treacherous for low-paid migrants workers in Myanmar, jade mines are particularly dangerous during the monsoon season.
Several organizations working for labor rights have criticized the Myanmar government led by president Win Myint for failing to regulate the lucrative business around jade mining. As per local inputs, the jade industry in Myanmar is largely controlled by the military elite and private groups.