Asia-Pacific

More than 50 feared dead in Myanmar mine collapse

Workers use heavy earth-excavators to mine jadeite at the Hpakant jade mining area in Kachin State. Source: AAP

A total of 54 workers were trapped when a jade mine and machinery were buried under a huge "mud lake" in Myanmar.

More than 50 people are feared dead after a landslide in northern Myanmar engulfed jade miners while they were sleeping, the latest deadly accident in the dangerous industry.

Dozens of people die each year in landslides caused by jade mining, a notoriously corrupt and poorly regulated industry concentrated near the country's border with China.

Local police described a freak accident in Kachin state on Monday night so big it created a huge "mud lake" that buried the miners as well as some 40 vehicles.

"Fifty-four people are missing in the mud," a duty officer from Hpakant township police station said, asking not to be named, adding that only two bodies had been recovered so far.

"There's no way they [the missing] could have survived."

The Ministry of Information confirmed the accident and number of missing, adding that the area was mined by Myanmar Thura Gems and Shwe Nagar Koe Kaung companies.

Fatal landslides are common in the mines with victims often from impoverished ethnic communities looking for scraps left behind by big firms.

A major landslide in November 2015 left more than 100 dead.

The jade industry is largely driven by an insatiable demand from neighbouring China.

Watchdog Global Witness estimated that it was worth some $31 billion in 2014, although very little reaches state coffers.

Northern Myanmar's abundant natural resources - including jade, timber, gold and amber - help finance both sides of a decades-long civil war between ethnic Kachin insurgents and the military.

The fight to control the mines and the revenues they bring frequently traps local civilians in the middle.

A 17-year ceasefire broke down in 2011 and since then more than 100,000 people have been displaced by fighting.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch