Scores Feared Dead in Latest Hpakant Mining Accident

Scores Feared Dead in Latest Hpakant Mining Accident

At least 40 gem pickers are reported missing after another landslide occurred in a jade pit near Hpakant’s Melingchaung village on Feb. 28. 

40 employees and three backhoes of the Shan Yoma Company — said to be engaged in illegal jade mining in the area — are thought to have been subsumed when a pile of tailings collapsed. 

An eyewitness employed by the company said that “at least 36 people, 12 to each backhoe, plus four or five members of the repair team” were missing. 

In 2016, the Yadana Mountain Company (a joint venture formed with the NLD administration) discovered what it claimed was a potential K10 billion (US$5.6 million) worth of jade in the same area.

Illegal jade mining in Hpakant is largely being facilitated by the military’s 33rd Division, and backhoe operators are alleged to be paying monthly kickbacks of K3 million (US$1,600) to operate in the pits. 

Operators also claim that the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) is overseeing operations on the ground, and that many miners apply directly to the EAO for permissions. 

Precarious illegal gem mining has increased significantly in Kachin State since the coup; this is the third time that a catastrophic landslide has occurred in recent months.