At least 13 people have been confirmed dead and two are missing after a wall pit collapsed at an illegal jade mine in Myanmar’s Hpakant, in the Kachin state, the heart of the country’s lucrative greenstone industry.
The accident occurred Monday evening, following heavy rain that lasted all day, Reuters reports.
It is the latest in a series of deadly accidents in recent months to hit Hpakant, where as much as 90% of the world’s jade is mined.
Miners work under extremely dangerous conditions, particularly those who pick through churned up material from large-scale machinery on unstable hillsides.
Jade mining, which has been in the hands of Myanmar’s military and elites during the final years of junta rule, is not only a dangerous sector to work in.
A report last year by rights group Global Witness showed the business remains a key driver of conflict between the government and ethnic Kachin rebels, funding both sides in a war that has killed thousands and displaced around 100,000 since 2011.
Most of the jade extracted in Myanmar, which remains under US sanctions, is smuggled into China, where the so-called “stone of heaven” is considered a symbol of virtue and power, and it is believed to ward off evil spirits and improve health.
Earlier this month, 13 workers died because of a similar accident. And in November last year, more than 100 were killed in major landslide after a man-made mountain of earth excavated from mines gave way. That accident is considered the worst one to hit the jade-mining area in recent memory.