9 March 2015

Hpakant – another serious Jade Mine landslide in Burma

Posted by Dave Petley

Hpakant landslide

The online news agency Eleven Myanmar is reporting another serious jade mine landslide at Hpakant in Burma on Friday.  The report suggests that a spoil heap 1000 feet (c. 300 metres) tall collapsed, burying a group of miners at the foot of the slope.  As usual there is huge uncertainty about the number of people buried, but locals indicate that between 50 and 100 might be likely.  It is probable that we’ll never know.

This is a Google Earth image of the area around Hpakant:


Google Earth

The devastation inflicted by the mining activities is clear to see. Al Jazeera has a very good article about the terrible social and natural cost of these jade mines, from which these two photographs are taken.  Both show the slope conditions in which the miners operate:




This is the second major mining related landslide in Hpakant this calendar year, and there have been many before.   That frequent landslides occur in such an environment is unsurprising; indeed I suspect that there are many small landslides that kill a few miners but are never reported.  Managing slopes in mines is a huge challenge, but the expertise exists to do this properly.  These landslide losses are absolutely unnecessary and deeply tragic.