August 19, 2016

Authorities refute Hpakant landslide death toll report

File photo shows migrant workers searching jade stones from discarded soil in Hpakant. Photo: Thaung Nyunt
File photo shows migrant workers searching jade stones from discarded soil in Hpakant. Photo: Thaung Nyunt

AUTHORITIES refuted media reports on the death toll of a landslide in Hpakant around 5pm on 25 December, saying they were informed that just three people died.
“Relatives of the three people informed us that three people have not yet returned home since the accident happened. And, until this evening, we have not yet discovered anybody under the soil,” said U Tin Swe Myint, the head of the Hpakant Township Administration Office, to The Global New Light of Myanmar over the phone.
With the use of five backhoes and firemen,  local authorities and volunteers have been carrying out rescue work since yesterday morning.
“The accident happened at a time when migrant workers returned home. And there
were no squatter huts in the area. This mound of dump soil is not as high and big as that of the previous incident. So it is impossible that about 40 or 50 migrant workers are feared dead in the accident,” he added.
Shortcomings in following safety regulations by both mining companies and migrant squatters pose challenges for local authorities in preventing future landslides around jade mines in Kachin State.
To prevent landslides, local authorities have suggested that migrant miners squatting in at-risk areas relocate to safer areas and that mining companies dump their waste soil in accordance with technical safety rules.
When miners began using heavy machinery to extract jade from mines in Myanmar in 2005, migrant workers across the country flowed into the area to scavenge small jade stones from discarded soil.
There are currently around 200,000 squatters in Hpakant Township.
Following the deadly landslides last month, the authorities relocated 108 migrant miners living in at-risk areas to safety sites about 3,000 feet away from the nearest mounds of dump soil.
According to data collected up to 30 November 2015, 627 mining companies have been allowed to mine on 7,714 plots, while another 231 companies are mining through a win-win business system on 311 plots. Mining areas constitute a total area of more than 22,558 acres in the township.
As of 2000, the government has practiced a production-sharing system with mining companies, collecting 25 per cent of the incomes from the sales, apart from tax.


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