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One confirmed dead, up to 100 missing after landslide at jade mine in northern Myanmar

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Dec 22, 2021: A landslide at a jade mine in northern Myanmar has killed at least one person and left more than 100 missing, according to aid workers.

A member of the rescue team, Ko Nyi told AFP that about 70-100 people were missing after a landslide at the Hpakant mine in Kachin state around 4 a.m. Wednesday.

“We’ve sent 25 injured people to hospital while we’ve found one dead,” according to Ko Nyi.

He added that about 200 rescue workers were searching for the bodies, and some were using boats to search for the dead in a nearby lake. A photo posted on social media by a local journalist claiming to be at the scene showed dozens of people standing on the shore of the lake, some of whom were carrying boats into the water.

The Kachin News Group, a local news agency, reported that 20 miners had been killed in the landslide. Myanmar’s fire service said its personnel were involved in rescue efforts from Hpakant and the nearby town of Lone Khin, but did not provide figures for deaths or disappearances.

Dozens of people die each year working in Myanmar’s highly lucrative but poorly regulated jade industry, which uses low-paid migrant workers to scrap the highly coveted precious gem in neighboring China. The fight for landmines and tariff control often traps locals, and the rampant trade in drugs and weapons further complicates the conflict.

Last year’s heavy rains triggered a massive landslide in Hpakant – the center of the jade trade in Myanmar’s Kachin State – which killed more than 170 people. COVID-19 Economic pressures from pandemic have attracted more migrants to Jade Mines, even as conflicts have erupted since Myanmar’s military seized power in February.

The ousted government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi promised to clean up the industry as soon as she took office in 2016, but activists say little has changed. Myanmar produces 90% of the world’s jade. Most belong to Hpakant, where rights groups say mining companies with links to the military elite and ethnic armed groups make billions of dollars a year.

This year, Watchdog Global Witness said the February uprising effectively eliminated any chance of reform in the dangerous and unorganized industry.

In another report released last week, Global Witness said Myanmar’s military now controls the country’s multimillion-dollar gemstone industry. The anti-corruption watchdog said that given the military’s control over the sector, luxury jewelers are at risk of financing military corruption in Myanmar.

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