Two people are dead and about 50 are missing after a landslide in a jade mine in northern Burma, the local police said on Tuesday.
At least “fifty-four people are missing (…) It is impossible that they could survive,” said the police.
The accident took place Monday night in Kachin State, a mountainous region in the heart of the jade industry, where such disasters occur regularly.
Officials described a freak accident on Monday night so big it created a huge “mud lake” that buried the miners as well as some 40 vehicles.
At this point, only two bodies have been found.
Burma is the world’s leading producer of jade, a very popular stone, especially in neighboring China.
But mining conditions are very bad, with mining companies employing many illegal workers. The sites also attract many poor workers who are trying to find pieces of jade in the piles of fillings left around the mines.
Dozens of people are killed every year in landslides, but most occur during the rainy season, which will not affect the country until next month.
In November 2015, more than 100 people died in a similar accident.
According to a report published in October 2015 by the NGO Global Witness, Burma sold in 2014 on the world market nearly 27.5 billion euros of jade, ten times the official figure. This accounts for nearly half of the country’s gross domestic product, which remains one of the poorest in Southeast Asia.
Much of this revenue escapes the state, as fighting has resumed since 2011 between Burmese soldiers and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), which derives a large share of its revenue from jade.
Based in NYC, Brandon Collins a Senior Editor at Rise Media. Previously he has worked for NPR and The Huffington Post. Brandon is a graduate of Sports Recreation and Leisure at the University of New York. You can reach Brandon via email or by phone.