jade mine
In this photograph, rescue workers gather beside a landslide in a jade mining area on the outskirts of Hpakant in Myanmar's northern Kachin State on May 24, 2016. Getty Images/Kyaw Win

More than 50 people were reported missing and feared dead after a mudslide buried workers at a jade mine in Myanmar's Kachin state, according to reports Tuesday. The slide was caused after a lake collapse in the city of Hpakant.

Rescue workers retrieved the bodies of three miners and a search was underway for the others believed to be trapped by a "mud lake," the state-run Myanmar News Agency reported.

"Finding bodies is proving difficult. About 60 volunteers from our philanthropic association are participating in the search for bodies," said U Khin Maung, chairman of a local philanthropic organization, according to Burmese state media. Officials said 54 workers and 40 machines are believed to be trapped in the debris. The ministry of information identified the companies involved in the accident as Shwe Nagar Koe Kaung and Myanmar Thura Gems.

“They won’t survive. It is not possible because they are buried under mud,” legislator Tin Soe told Reuters. “It is very difficult to retrieve the bodies.”

Myanmar Thura Gems' director Hla Soe Oo told Agence France Presse by phone that the company was "helping the families identify the victims' bodies."

In July 2018, at least 27 people died after heavy rains led to a landslide at a jade mine in northern Myanmar. Fatal accidents are not rare at these locations. More than 100 people were killed in a single landslide in November 2015.

“The government’s plans to tackle the problem in the jade mining region are not practical,” Tsa Ji, a researcher and member of a local activist organization, the Kachin Development Networking Group, said last year. “The authorities have passed the laws without really understanding how the mining companies are destroying the environment on a large scale.”

Jade is believed to be one of Myanmar's most profitable exports, worth billions of dollars. The jade industry was estimated to be worth about $31 billion in 2014, according to Global Witness, a London-based group that investigates misuse of revenues from natural resources.

According to reports, a similar accident involving the release of a massive amount of mud occurred in March. The incident resulted in damages to some equipment but caused no deaths.