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Scores killed in Myanmar jade mine landslide

A landslide near a jade mine in Myanmar has killed at least 100 people. More than 100 are still missing. Victims were thought to have been scavenging through mining waste to make a modest living.

Most of the missing after a landslide in Myanmar are villagers who were sifting through a mountain of tailings and waste, a local community leader said on Sunday. At least 100 people died in the landslide, according to officials.

Lamai Gum Ja, a community leader and businessman, said the slide occurred Saturday afternoon in Hpakant in Kachin state.

It crushed dozens of huts clustered on the barren landscape, where an unknown number of itinerant workers had made their homes.

Informal miners put themselves at risk and often lose their lives digging through scraps from the giant mines.

"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," said Mike Davis of Global Witness, a group that investigates the misuse of revenue from natural resources.

He said "scores of people at a time are buried alive in landslides."

Parts of Myanmar and the surrounding region are home to some of the world's highest quality jade, sales of which brings in billions of dollars a year.

Hpakant, which is the epicenter of the country's jade boom, remains desperately poor. Local people complain of various abuses associated with the mining industry, including the frequency of accidents and land confiscations.

Industrial-scale mining by big companies made Hpakant "a dystopian wasteland where locals are literally having the ground cut from under their feet," said Mike Davis. He called on firms to be held accountable for accidents.

av,das/sms (AP, AFP)

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