2020 Hpakant jade mine disaster
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|Date||2 July 2020|
|Location||Hpakant, Kachin State, Myanmar|
At least 162 people were killed in a landslide in a jade mining site in the Hpakant area of Kachin state in Myanmar on 2 July 2020. While Myanmar's jade industry is known for fatalities and accidents, the 2020 disaster is the deadliest accident to date.
Background[edit source | edit]
Myanmar is the largest supplier of jade in a yearly trade worth 30 billion dollars per year, however accidents are frequent at its mining sites. The largest jade mine in the world is at Hpakant in Kachin state. A landslide killed at least 116 people in the 2015 Hpakant jade mine disaster. In 2019, fifty workers were buried in a mine collapse, resulting in the death of four of them and two rescue workers.
Scores of miners have been killed in smaller accidents in recent years, with independent "jade pickers" who scavenge tailings from larger operators particularly at risk. These freelancer miners live in ramshackle quarters at the base of large mounds of rubble excavated by heavy machinery. The freelance miners are often migrants from other regions of Myanmar and are unregistered, which complicated reckoning of missing people. Mining is performed at the site by hundreds of people who scavenge through tailings dumped by trucks at the site. The tailings form large slopes, in a moonscape-like scene devoid of trees, which is susceptible to collapse.
On 1 July, authorities issued a warning against mining in the area due to heavy rainfall. However, this warning was defied by many miners.
Landslide[edit source | edit]
The miners at the site were freelancing scavengers who were scouring the tailings of a mining company.
At 06:30 local time, heavy rains triggered the collapse of a heap of mining waste which came tumbling down into a lake. This then generated a wave of mud and water which buried those working at the site. The collapse and the subsequent wave of mud and water was captured on video, as was the frantic attempts of escape by miners.
A survivor said he saw a towering waste pile about to collapse as people shouted "run, run". According to Khaing: "Within a minute, all the people at the bottom [of the hill] just disappeared. I feel empty in my heart... There were people stuck in the mud shouting for help but no-one could help them".
Death toll[edit source | edit]
As of 2 July 2020, 162 bodies were recovered from the site, and another 54 people are reported injured. In addition, it is feared that many miners, possibly 200, are trapped. Rescue efforts were hampered by the heavy rains. Photographs from the area showed lines of recovered bodies placed on a hill. The death toll is expected to rise, as other bodies are in the mud.
References[edit source | edit]