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A landslide in a jade mine in Burma’s northern Kachin State left six dead and four injured earlier this week.
Locals were digging in a small-scale mining operation in Nat Maw village tract, Hpakant Township, when the land began to move, Jah Naw, a Hpakant resident, told DVB.
“Six dead, about three days ago,” he said, “while they were tapping the rocks.”
Landslides are not uncommon in small — often unlicensed — homegrown mining sites, say locals, because the workers are not careful and the sites are largely unregulated and under-equipped. Some say that the sites are more dangerous now because of capillary fracturing caused by explosives used in nearby corporate mines.
“There were cracks due to mining by companies with TNT. People dig along these cracks without care and it happens,” said Tashila Seng, another Hpakant local. “Some killed, some hurt. These are found, like, everyday.”
He said that in areas near the Uru stream — such as Tawnkawt, Shan Su, Shakharaw and Myauk Phyu — accidents happen nearly once a week.
Kachin State is the one of the world’s last remaining sources for the rare and expensive jade stones. Approximately 50 companies have been granted permission to explore the Kachin hills and extract the stones, which are mostly exported to and refined in neighbouring China.
Local people, however, are not permitted to independently scavenge the territory, which they continue to do illicitly in hopes of a big score. The potential payoff is often considered well worth the risk of the extremely dangerous work, as job opportunities are rare in the remote and undeveloped region.