This Valentine’s day, people are looking for that perfect surprise for that significant someone; a box of chocolates, candlelit dinner, maybe taking advantage of the romantic mood of the holiday by proposing with one of those designer engagement rings inset with a precious gemstone. However, the romantic mood, as well as the good fortune generally associated with gemstones, is undercut in Hpakant township in Kachin state, located in the northern region of Myanmar.
Nine dead, with another one injured due to a collapsing slag heap at the township mine, which occurred last Saturday. In a fit of irony, the mine owner was among those confirmed dead, according to the township’s administrator, Kyaw Zwa Aung. Additionally, administrator Aung has state that the remains of the deceased men were taken to the Hpakant township hospital.
In the township jade mine, 200,000 migrant workers sift through dangerous mountains made of rubble, tailings for any pieces of the valuable gemstone that mining operations left unnoticed and unclaimed.
The Hpakant township, 640 kms north of the Myanmar capital of Nay Pyi Daw, is the centre of the country’s jade mining industry, due to producing extremely high-quality gemstones, which are either legally exported or smuggled into countries where it is in demand like China.
This sort of tragedy has struck the country in the past, and incidents similar to this are widespread enough to lead to the minister of natural resources and environmental conservation; Ohn Win, promised in August last year to regulate the industry by keeping migrant workers away from the dangerous jade mine sites following several lethal accidents involving scavengers in the township.
This pledge was preceded by an accident in May of the same year in which, at least, 13 people perished.
He stated that that government would take steps to prevent such disasters from repeating themselves, starting by ensuring that mining areas would be free of illegal migrant workers who scavenge mining areas, endangering themselves for a profit in an industry that was, at that point, largely uncontrolled and unregulated.
It is a tragedy that will be felt by the township for years to come, and a stark reminder of the true price of our fancy necklaces and designer engagement rings.