New accident strikes Myanmar's jade-mining region

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YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — A landslide near a jade mine in northern Myanmar has killed a worker, in the fourth accident of its type in less than two months in the lucrative but dangerous industry.

The Information Ministry said the mining company employee in Hpakant was killed Tuesday night when a 300-foot (91-meter) -high mountain of earth and mine waste collapsed on him. Other accounts said at least four people were killed, although local police said they did not know of the accident.

At least 113 people were killed in November when a landslide buried their makeshift dwellings at the foot of another nearby waste mountain. Many were scavengers who go through the waste looking for discarded jade.

There were two other fatal accidents in November and December.

Hpakant is in Kachin state, the source of some of the world's highest-quality jade. Myanmar's jade industry generated an estimated $31 billion in 2014, with most of the wealth going to individuals and companies tied to Myanmar's former military rulers, according to Global Witness, a group that investigates misuse of resource revenues.

Hpakant, 950 kilometers (600 miles) northeast of Myanmar's biggest city, Yangon, is the industry's center. But it remains desperately poor, with bumpy dirt roads, constant electricity blackouts and high heroin addiction rates.

A politician from the area who is a senior member of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party — which is to take power early this year after winning last November's general election — said at least four people, most of them local villagers who scavenged for jade, died in the accident.

"We don't know exactly how many people have been buried because no one dares to search for anyone as they see the cracks in the enormous waste and earth pile and it's dangerous," said Tin Soe, a Hpakant resident. He decried non-stop mining activity that did not take into account the danger to people.

Such accidents usually occur on a small-scale that does not get much attention, and are often dismissed as a result of bad weather.

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