Early morning on November 22, a deadly landslide hit the town of Hpakant in northern Myanmar, killing around 120 miners, according to the Kachin National Social Development Foundation.
At around 4:00 AM that Saturday, a mountain of rubble collapsed and buried dozens of the huts and tents in the “Plastic Village” encampment which housed the sleeping workers.
Hpakant is part of the state of Kachin, where Myanmar’s jade-mining industry thrives. According to the NGO Global Witness, the mining industry there generated about $31 billion in revenue, with most of the money going into the pockets of the country’s former military regime rulers. “Large companies, many of them owned by families of former generals, army companies, cronies and drug lords, are making tens or hundreds of millions of dollars a year through their plunder of Hpakant,” spokesperson Mike Davis stated. In contrast, the town of Hpakant itself is exceptionally poor. According to The Guardian, many of the miners were men who picked through rubbish piles and waste dumps to search for small pieces of jade. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time an incident like this has happened. According to the Associated Press, earlier this year, another landslide in the region also killed 30 jade miners.
In the aftermath of November’s landslide, police, members of the Myanmar Red Cross Society, and other volunteers helped to retrieve the bodies from the debris. Yet by November 25, search efforts were called off, even though around 100 people are still considered missing. Instead, the government of Kachin state is offering 600,000 kyats ($550) to the families of the victims as compensation for their deaths. Neither of the mining companies seen as largely responsible for the collapse–Triple One and Yadana Yaung Chi–have offered any forms of compensation.