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2 jade miners killed in Hkamti landslide

FILE PHOTO: Jade scavengers sort through a pile of soil unearthed by industrial jade mining companies. (Photo: DVB 2015)

Two freelance miners were killed when a mound of excavated soil collapsed on them at a jade mine in Sagaing Division’s Hkamti Township on Saturday.

Local police reported that the incident took place on 12 November at a mining plot operated by the Zabuthiri Gems Company in Hkamti’s Namsepun village. A 38-year-old man, Myo Tun, a resident of the village, and 21-year-old Zaw Myo Win of Budalin town had been sifting through debris on the site, searching for leftover fragments of jade, when a landslide buried them under rubble.

There are around 3,000 jade scavengers, the majority of them migrants from other parts from Burma, working on a freelance basis at the jade mines in Hkamti.

Also on 12 November, Burma’s state-run Global New Light of Myanmar reported that mining bosses in Khamti had complained that undocumented workers, or scavengers, were seizing the jade stones that should be discovered by the legal companies at the site. At least one of the jade mining chiefs threatened to take legal action against the freelancing miners.

Some 80 kilometres southwest of Hkamti, at least 50 mining companies operate in Hpakant’s rich jade mines, where thousands more itinerant workers subsist by digging through the mountain-sized heaps of discarded earth in search of jade scraps.

A recent report by international watchdog Global Witness estimated that the rampantly corrupt and unregulated business is worth some US$31 billion.

Soon after winning last year’s elections, the now-ruling NLD promised to do more to regulate the lawless jade mine industry after a landslide in November 2015 claimed nearly 200 lives.