Rescuers halt jade mine landslide operation in Myanmar

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MalaysiaMalaysia – Rescuers in northern Myanmar claimed that the verified death toll from a landslide at an illegal jade mine had grown to six, but that the search effort had been called off since dozens of others were still missing and assumed dead.

Thousands of people die each year while working in the lucrative but poorly controlled jade trade, in which low-paid migrant laborers scrape out jewels that are highly prized in China.

After a flood of boulders and dirt surged into the lake early Wednesday, authorities thought at least 70 people were missing, but later said they were still working to confirm that number.

At 4:30 p.m. yesterday, they called the search off. Two dead corpses were retrieved, bringing the total number of dead bodies recovered to six, Ko Jack of Myanmar Rescue Organisation said.

He also added that his crew will no longer dive since the remains of those still missing were most likely buried under dirt and debris.

The miners in Hpakant come from all over Myanmar to make a livelihood by sifting through mountains of waste left by industrial mining companies in the hopes of discovering a fragment of jade that has gone unnoticed.

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It would be difficult to determine how many people were working when the accident happened, rescuers added, since families are reluctant to confess their relatives were there, and survivors are reluctant to come forward.

The weight of spilled dirt and stones had pushed the land downward into the surrounding lake, according to rescuers.

Northern Myanmar’s plentiful natural resources, such as jade, timber, gold, and amber, have aided both sides in a decades-long civil struggle between ethnic Kachin militants and the military.

Civilians are regularly caught in the midst of the battle for control of the mines and their rich income, and the violence is aggravated by a growing drug and weapons trade.

Heavy rains caused a major landslide in Hpakant last year, burying roughly 300 miners.

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