Minister Vows ‘Action Will Be Taken’ Against Mining Firms as New Mudslide Kills Two More in Hpakant

Two more mining workers have died in a second mudslide near the site where over 5o people were engulfed in a vast pool of sludge in the jade-rich region of Hpakant, a local minister has said.

The second, smaller mudslide struck Wednesday as volunteers fought treacherous conditions to recover bodies from the first disaster on Monday night, said Dashi La Seng, Kachin’s natural resources minister.

Recovery teams have now found eight bodies from the initial deluge, he told Myanmar Now.

Amid renewed anger about lax safety standards in the region’s notoriously dangerous mines, the minister vowed that “action will be taken” against some mining companies in response to the incidents.

A photograph of the mud lake before the accident (Photo by Zaw Moe Htet (Hpakant))

Dozens die every year in Hpakant, where activists and others accuse mining firms of ignoring safety regulations and dumping waste materials in areas where they risk causing landslides.

Fifty-four night shift workers were believed to have been killed when a 5-acre wide, 100-foot deep pool of sludge spilled over into a mining crater late on Monday night, also engulfing dozens of vehicles and excavation machines.

The mud lake formed after a company dumped earth and sludge at an old mining site adjacent to the area where the workers are now buried, according to locals.

The site where the mud lake formed was operated by a firm called Unity Company, state media said. The site was shut down last year during the rainy season after the permit expired, a local resident told Myanmar Now.

The worksite was buried under the mud after the dam collapsed (Photo by Zaw Moe Htet (Hpakant))

The workers caught in the mudslide were mining the site on behalf of three companies: Myanmar Thura Gems, KNGCP, and the Shwe Nagar Koe Kaung – or Nine Golden Dragons – company.

As distraught family members waited near the site of the disaster, recovery workers said they feared finding all the bodies could prove difficult.

U Pho Htoo of the local Thingaha Free Funeral Service Association, told Myanmar Now that recovery efforts were severely hindered by the fact the sludge was up to 50 feet deep.

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