About 50 workers were feared dead after a landslide hit a jade mine in northern Myanmar, according to reports Saturday. Rescue operations were being carried out to find the missing people in Hpakant in the country's Kachin State.
The incident occurred Friday afternoon in the same region where over 100 people were killed in a landslide late November. “We start searching and rescuing people this morning, and found five bodies. According to witnesses, about 50 people are still missing," said Tint Swe Myint, administrator of Hpakant town, according to Australian Associated Press.
However, Myo Htet Aung, also from the Hpakant Administrative Office, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that "just three or four people are missing at the moment" and that no bodies were recovered from the site.
Locals reportedly said that dozens have been killed in small accidents at the mining site throughout the year. Those killed in landslides are mostly migrant workers who make a living picking through the piles of waste left by large-scale industrial mining firms hoping to bump into a previously missed chunk of jade, AFP reported.
The region around Hpakant comprises up to 90 percent of the world's jade, which has high demand in neighboring China. According to an October report by advocacy group Global Witness, the value of Myanmar jade produced in 2014 was $31 billion — equivalent to almost half the gross domestic product for the whole country — and said that the trade might be the "biggest natural resource heist in modern history."