A Deadly Gamble: Myanmar’s Jade Industry

The tragedy was all too familiar in Myanmar’s infamous northern jade mining town of Hpakant: In the early hours of the morning, hundreds of jade pickers teetered on the edge of unstable mountains to scavenge the loose debris dumped by trucks. They are convinced finding a valuable stone will forever change their lives. When the mountain collapses miners are instantly enveloped by a wall of mud when a heavy landslide hits the bottom. Dozens instantly disappear and families are left without answers.

This year’s landslide was deadliest on record. The July 2 collapse at the Wai Khar mine left at least 175 dead, mostly men in their 20s, reportedly from as far away as war-ravaged Rakhine state. Last year, at least 50 people died, buried alive by the mountain, and in 2015, 113 died. Each disaster sparked calls for reform of the jade mining sector. 

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Nicholas Muller