Miners, companies must follow rules to avoid disasters in Hpakant jade mines

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  • Seventeen migrant miners were killed on 4 May in the latest accident in a Hpakant mine when a wall of earth collapsed on them while they were digging for jade stones.
    The deadly landslide in Hpakant, Kachin State, has prompted authorities to take urgent steps to prevent further disasters.
    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.
    Authorities also removed makeshift tents in the at-risk area.
    The latest deadly landslides happened in a restricted area where nobody is allowed to enter.
    The tragedy has sent a message to local authorities to review safety policies and practices and to take law enforcement into consideration.
    The environment in Hpakant has been deteriorating for some decades. Environmental conservation is very weak, and companies have used lots of heavy machinery in their jade mining operations.
    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 in the discarded soil.
    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.
    They issued an order to evict the squatters and erected warning signboards in the at-risk areas, but the miners have not fully cooperated with them, according to local authorities.
    At the same time, mining companies should follow suggestions for safe dumping from a technical point of view, an expert pointed out.
    The expert also suggested raising awareness of “risk factors” in mining areas in regards to landslides. Such a programme would be aimed at providing knowledge to mine workers and local authorities.
    It is also necessary to strictly enforce safety rules as well as provide safety equipment to allow quick responses to accidents at work sites.
    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.
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