According to local media reports in Myanmar, rescuers have stopped searching for miners believed to be victims of another deadly landslide in Hpakant township in Kachin State, as the toll in the tragedy rose to 20.

Based on local witness reports, it is believed that several more people are still buried under tonnes of mining waste, which collapsed late last week due to wet weather.

Sixteen bodies have been recovered from the site to date, with four miners dying whilst receiving medical treatment in hospital.

The landslide occurred near Waikha mine located not far from Seng Tawng village in Hpakant. The township, 950 kilometres north of Yangon, is the epicentre of the world’s biggest and most lucrative jade mining industry. Jade is normally mined by heavy equipment that generates huge mounds of waste soil, which easily causes landslides.

An AP Report estimated that the jade industry generated about US$31 billion (K41.67 trillion) in 2014, with most of the wealth going to individuals and companies tied to Myanmar’s former military rulers, according to Global Witness, a London-based group investigating misuse of revenues from natural resources.

People often settle near the mounds to scavenge for jade in the precariously high piles of waste. Fatal accidents are not rare, and more than 100 people were killed in a single landslide in November 2015.

Local activists said the profitability of jade mining led businesses and the government to neglect enforcing already very weak regulations in the industry.

According to the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper, however, local authorities have taken steps to prevent future mining accidents.

“As part of the preventive measures against landslides, local authorities have formed inspection teams at the ward and village level to regularly inspect more than 10 mountains of dumped soil in the township,” the newspaper stated. “Authorities also removed makeshift tents in the at-risk area.”

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