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Search ends for victims of Myanmar jade mining landslide

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Hpakant: Police in northern Myanmar said on Wednesday they have ended efforts to find bodies in a jade mining landslide that killed more than 100 people and highlighted the perilous conditions created by a breakneck effort to dig up the world’s richest deposits of the green gem.

Separately, the government of Kachin state in the country’s far north has offered compensation of 600,000 kyats ($550) to families of identified victims. The desultory sum reflects the limited resources of a state that is largely locked out of a mining bonanza worth billions. The collapse early Saturday of a 60 meter (200-foot) mountain of dirt and debris created by industrial jade mining in Hpakant enveloped 70 makeshift huts and killed at least 113 people.

Officials have said as many as 100 people are still missing. Many of the dead were itinerant jade pickers and their families who made a living scavenging for scraps of jade in the debris left behind by mining companies. Hpakant police officer Naing Win said search operations ended on Wednesday morning.

The landslide was the area’s worst such disaster in recent memory, but dozens of other people have been killed or maimed in the past year. In January, a landslide of unstable waste earth killed at least 30 jade pickers.

The jade industry centred on Hpakant was worth more than $30 billion IN 2014, according to an estimate by Global Witness, a group which investigates misuse of resource wealth. But there is so little investment in the region that vehicles on the main road between Hpakant and the state capital need elephants to rescue them from the mud.

Researchers believe the dark green rocks that can be the size of giant boulders are enriching individuals and companies tied to Myanmar’s former military rulers. Lajun Ngan Seng, a Kachin state minister, on Tuesday said the families of 72 identified victims are being offered compensation.

Naing Win, the police officer, said an association of the dozens of jade mining companies in Hpakant could decide further compensation. So far there has been no offer of compensation from Triple One Jade and Yadana Yaung Chi, two mining companies that police say contributed in large part to the waste mountain.

The death toll of 113 has been unchanged since Monday despite earthmoving machines being used in the search. Zaw Zaw Aung, 29, said he has been searching for his parents for four days, but has only found traces of what was their home.

PTI