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Two jade scavengers were killed and another injured when a mound of excavated soil collapsed on Monday at one of the jade pits in Hpakant, Kachin State.
According to Shwe Thein, the local chairman of the National League for Democracy (NLD), the incident happened between the jade mining sites operated by the Naykya Yadana and Agga Yadana companies.
“The scavengers were looking for leftover stones on the scrap mound when it collapsed, killing two and injuring another one. The deceased were identified as: Than Ko Oo, 20, from Sagaing Division, who died on the spot; and Aung KoThet, 18, from Hpakant, who died on the way to hospital,” said Shwe Thein.
A third victim, 27-year-old Than Soe Aung is currently being treated at Hpakant hospital.
The NLD representative said that he had also been told of reports of another landslide in Hpakant the following day, 13 December, which had left four people dead. DVB could not confirm that report.
This week’s deaths were not atypical of the consequences of working as a scavenger or freelance picker at the jade sites in Hpakant. A landslide in November 2015 claimed nearly 200 lives, and several similar incidents have occured on a regular basis.
Hpakant is home to the richest jade mines in the world, and at least 50 mining companies operate there. Outside the official mining operations, thousands of itinerant workers, or scavengers, subsist by digging through mountain-sized heaps of discarded earth in search of jade scraps.
A recent report by international watchdog Global Witness estimated the rampantly corrupt and unregulated business to be 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.
WATCH HERE: DVB documentary, Hpakant’s jade curse