Friday 9 January 2015

At least two dead following landslide at jade mine in northern Myanmar.

Two people are known to have died and around 40 more are missing following a landslide at a jade mine at Hpakant in Kachin Province in northern Myanmar on Tuesday 6 Jaunary 2015. The incident happened at about 7.00 pm local time, following heavy rainfall in the area. Landslides are a common problem after severe weather events, as excess pore water pressure can overcome cohesion in soil and sediments, allowing them to flow like liquids. Approximately 90% of all landslides are caused by heavy rainfall.

Mining operations at Hpakant in Kachin Province. DVB.

 The two dead men have been named as Myo Naing from Ponnakyun (32) and Nay Lin (20) both from Arakan State. The mining operation at Hpakant is thought to be largely artisanal in nature, with self-employed miners armed with traditional tools excavating communal plots. The landslip is thought to have occured on a large waste pile, engulphing a large number of miners and small traders active at the site.

The approximate location of the Hpakant Jade Mine. Google Maps.

Myanmar is the world's largest producer of jade, though this is largely produced (along with other precious and semi-precious minerals such as amber) at unregulated (and often illegal) artisanal mines in the north of the country, from where it is smuggled into neighbouring China. Accidents at such mines are extremely common, due to the more-or-less total absence of any safety precautions at the site. At many sites this is made worse by the unregulated use of explosives to break up rocks, often leading to the weakening of rock faces, which can then collapse without warning.

Kachin State has a highly seasonal climate, with a monsoon occuring between June and September. Rainfall is typically very low in January, and a sudden severe storm may have caught miners at Hpakant by surprise.

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