25 April 2019
Balakh village: yet another catastrophic jade mine landslide in Myanmar
Early on Tuesday morning a slope collapsed at a jade mine at Balakh village in Myanmar. Whilst there is some uncertainty about the number of miners trapped in the debris, the most likely toll appears to be 54 people. Reports from within Myanmar suggest that this collapse occurred in a company operated facility, rather than involving unregulated mining or scavenging on waste piles. The reports seem to indicate that the slope collapsed onto residential accommodation for the miners.
There are some images of the landslide online – these two are interesting:-
The first image shows the source area of the landslide. It clearly shows a series of very large rotational failures, including one with very substantial movement. The second images shows the run out zone . It is clear that the landslide has undergone a form of liquefaction to form a highly mobile mass. This explains the description of the landslide as a “mud lake”. Some reports suggest that this was a tailings pond collapse, but judging by the images it seems reasonably likely that this is a misinterpretation of the liquefaction process. Whatever the cause, the consequences are that there are no prospects of survivors from the disaster beyond the three injured people already rescued.
I have written repeatedly about the terrible toll of mining induced landslides in the Hpakant area of Myanmar, which have taken almost one thousand lives to date. The government repeatedly assures the international community that they will improve regulation, but this is an industry that is mired in corruption, with frequent allegations that the profits are funneled into the bank accounts of the military leaders in Myanmar. It seems inevitable that I will be posting about events in the Hpakant area well into the future.