200 feared dead in jade mining landslide

Nearly 100 people have been confirmed dead after a landslide near a jade mine in Myanmar, with fears for an estimated 100 still missing.

The landslide occurred at 3am (local time) on Saturday morning in the country’s northen Kachin state, near Hpakant.

Local authorities said there was no data to indicate the number of people who had been living in the makeshift miners’ camp.

"It was just a slum with these … workers living in makeshift tents. Nobody knows for sure how many and where they had come from,” a spokesperson for the Hpakant Township Administration Department said.

A survivor from the camp, Ko Sai, said many miners were sleeping when the landslide occurred.

"We just heard a loud noise sounding like thunder and saw that the huge mountain collapsed and a huge wave of rubble was moving and sprawling on a wide area," Ko Sai said.

"It was just like a nightmare."

With an estimated 100 people still missing, an official of the local fire department said it was very unlikely any would have survived.

The region is known for producing high quality jade, with Myanmar the world’s sole source of Jadeite, however workers are paid very little to search for the precious stones.

Jade mines in Myanmar are connected to government corruption and organised crime, with gemstones smuggled to China where jade is highly prized.

According to environmental advocacy group Global Witness, the jade trade in Myanmar was worth an estimated $43 billion in 2014, around half the country’s GDP.

Official figures from the government say there was $4.7 billion in sale of jade stones in the same period.

Global Witness spokesperson Mike Davis said the Hpakant region had been turned into a “dystopian wasteland” by military families, companies and drug lords running the mining industry with no regard for environment or safety.

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