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Collapse at jade mine kills at least 17

A view from above of search and rescue efforts at the jade mining site in Hpakant Township, Kachin State, where more than a dozen were killed over the weekend. (Photo: DVB)

A landslide at a jade mine in Kachin State’s Hpakant Township over the weekend has claimed at least 17 lives and injured dozens of others, with many more feared dead as search and rescue efforts continue.

The mine is located near Hsan Kha village, in the Lone Khin village-tract, and was leased to a jade mining company named Maha Ahsa Pahtama. A land bank of the mine collapsed at about 2 p.m. on Saturday.

The bodies of 14 men and one woman were initially recovered, township administrator Kyaw Swar Aung told DVB, with search and rescue operations ongoing. Two more bodies were later pulled from the rubble, and authorities have sought to alert those with ties to the area to inform them if family members or friends are missing.

Kyaw Swar Aung said the mining site where the landslide took place had been designated as “expired” in April, with signs posted to indicate the potential danger of venturing onto the land in question.

The local township administration office has said it will provide aid to those injured and family members of the victims, according to Kyaw Swar Aung.

The landslide occurred soon after a detonation at a nearby mining site, one of the survivors of Saturday’s collapse told DVB.

“At that time, another company conducted a mine explosion in their block. …  There are more than 200 people in the area scavenging in the area. Nearly all of them were buried under the earth. A backhoe is also included. I think, the death toll might be about 150,” he said.

Landslides at mining sites are a deadly recurrence in jade-rich Hpakant, leading to calls for greater regulation of the gems industry in Burma’s north. The current government has said reform of the sector is a priority, with one of the worst incidents in recent years coming just weeks after it swept to power in the November 2015 general election.