Are human lives worthless in Hpakant, the hub of jade mining?

On November 13 evening, the terrorists bombed six places in Paris and claimed over hundred lives and injured more than 300. 
The Bataclan Theatre was hurt the worst and the Stade de France Stadium where the French President and the German foreign minister were watching friendship football match was attacked twice by suicide bombers.
The world is shocked and the world leaders have condemned the terrorism and stood in support of France.  
The French attack has made headlines on the global media.
Meanwhile in Myanmar, the hundreds of miners in jade-rich Hpakant, Kachin State, have been being killed by the landslide accident. However, only a few people paid attention to the tragedy of the jade miners, let alone the global media.
The collapses of dumped soil continue, and the death toll indicates over a hundred. 
How or who will take responsibility for the lives of the innocent people?
Are the lives in Hpakant valueless?
The curse of natural resources and its victims
The heaps of dumped soil have fallen down for 36 times as of November 21, 2015. The miners died in each accident.
The last accident killed at least 130 miners but only the remains of 114 have been found. 
The government’s response to it was sadly – and shockingly – ineffective.
The Hpakant-based civil societies performed outstandingly, though.
The Kachin state minister and his government staff observed the scene on November 25. 
Bauk Ja, the Kachin state social minister, said: “The heap of dumped soil slid and collapsed. A total of 70 huts and 130 people were buried. Only 114 were found and 83 of them were identified. The miners are daring, and mining is the only livelihood in this region. We have organised a committee to relocate the miners’ settlement away from the dumped soil.”
Since the region is blessed with jade mines, the union government itself administers it. 
“The President provided us with the security and guides. To my experience, the locals’ settlements and the worksites are not divided; it’s worrisome. The local residents total around 90,000 but the migrant workers amounted to more than 200,000. We need to provide them a safe workplace and the miners themselves need to be cautious,” Bauk Ja added.
Hpakant is home to 808 private mining companies, 15,638 worksites each with one-acre width, 222 joint-venture companies and their own 302 sites, according to the figures from the Ministry of Mines.
Thirteen spots are set up to dump the soil formally, but the most people disposed untidily in places such as near the villages and in the Uru River, the regional lawmakers pointed out. 
The state’s representatives have proposed repeatedly to restrict the dumping of the soil and to dredge the Uru River. Sai Myint Kyaw, the deputy speaker of the state parliament blamed the weak rules and regulations.
“No one dares to touch the worksites if they are owned by the powerful people. We’ve discussed over this matter repetitively in the state parliamentary sessions. There are laws, but no one follows them and no one got punished for breaking the laws,” argued Sai Myint Kyaw, a state lawmaker from No 2 Hpakant Constituency.
The heaps of dumped soil become more dangerous as they get bigger and higher. Such tragedies will repeat if the soil is not dumped systematically.
“The bed of the Uru River gets higher by 20 feet. The consequence is flooding. The jade stones become scarce now. The system of a company dominating many worksites should be radicalised. The small-scale and individual miners are also reckless. They dump the soil near the village and some of them settle above the heap of the dumped soil,” he added.
The mines are given to the companies through the tender directly by the central government. The state government is just to manage them. 
Sai Kyaw Myint said that the state government was unable to manage effectively and the worksites should be reduced and operate with transparency.
Hpakant is home to 312,528 people and 33,128 households, according to the figures last year.
There are 116 villages but only 54 of them are included on the list of the Home Affairs Ministry. The list is incomplete since the villages near the dumped soil are left out.
Jade mining is being at Hpakant’s since the monarchical era in Myanmar. The mining was only a small-scale business and done manually till 1994. 
Only after the government and the Kachin Independence Organisation signed a peace pact, the mining has been mechanised. The dump trucks and backhoes have been employed since 2005 and more than 500 companies have mined in massive scale till May 2012.
A police station in Hpakant said 29 people in 2013 and 33 people in 2014 were killed by the landslides. Many deaths were not certified, according to the local police stations, Lonekhin, Tarmakan and Saitaung.
Tin Soe, the chair of the National League for Democracy is Hpakant office, said: “The miners see this place as their escape from poverty. They can become a rich man overnight by mining, and that’s why they risk their lives. There are 200,000 manual workers in Hpakant – 150,000 of them mine and 50,000 are selling goods and brokering stones. The employees at least earn salaries but the individual miners earn their lives from the money they get from selling stones. So, there is no way to ban mining.”
He said most incidents happened at night, adding that with the passage of time piles of damp soil have become like a mountain under which is water. So it is subject to collapsing any time. 
"These days, such landslides cause more casualties. But prior warnings could lead to few deaths. In a case, as far as I know, about five people were submerged under dump soil after the collapse of a jade deposit. Meanwhile, other workers informed them and were still doing their work. It is not possible to stop those needy people from doing this job. Only with a prior warning, can we reduce casualties. In a landslide of Hmawhsisa Village, about 80 people were killed. Another thing is that blocks where jade has been mined usually become tremendous lakes. In rainy season, they could cause flooding," he said. 
A member of the Geology Faculty who is making a study tour of the Hpakant area said the situation could worsen if such things go on. This year's heavy rain and flooding were likely to be contributed by excessive mining in this area. 
"All potential jade deposits should not be mined simultaneously. They should be done in a gradual manner. Most wasted dump soils go to the Ayeyawady River via the Uru and Chindwin rivers. We can see this if we learn why some parts of the town of Kalay were covered in mad. We should take lessons from floods and landslides. We are all under a resource curse," said the geologist. 
All the people took part in rescue and rehabilitation work in the aftermath of torrential rain and sever floods in many parts of the country in this rainy season. We also had to seek foreign aid. If that's so, we are all under the resource curse. 
I remember what Maung Pyone, a jade mining worker in Hpakant, said when I was there in 2014. "Our life is whether we could lead a life of luxury or we would die," he said. 
It is absolutely true. But they must be lucky enough to lead a life of luxury. They must pray for not being under a landslide. It is time the jade mining system should be changed. 
Some parliamentarians and local people told the Daily Eleven that more landslides are likely as the Hpakant area still sees indiscriminate jade mining with the use of heavy machinery and around 200,000 workers. 
The Hpakant region has many jade blocks but a few sites for dump soils. Dump soils coming from all the blocks recklessly go to those few sites and other areas such as the Uru riverside and nearby areas or in villages. There are also thousands of huts where jade mining workers live. And all these working conditions are vulnerable to landslides. 
"Any effective preventive action could not be carried out. I see it as a legislative weakness. It is necessary to enact a gem mining law systematically. Systematic mining is also necessary. We all expect a lot more deaths if an earthquake happens," said one local aid worker, Tin Hlaing. 
"The mountain of dump soil near Hpakant and Lonekhin is towering high. There is growing concern that a lot of huts sit at the foot of this mountain of dump soil. Jade mining is around the clock. It must be reduced. Piles of dump soils have been seen are by the Uru River for many years. There will be floods in the downstream Chindwin River. Even I, not an expert, can estimate this. For the past few years, I have posted warnings on Facebook. The administrative authorities as well as jade mining companies are only searching for money. There is no law."
Tin Hlaing said landslides had caused massive death tolls several time. He pointed out the submersion of about 500 people in 1997 when PNLO (Pa-O National Liberation Organisation) was engaging in jade mining and heavy casualties in 2007. Only the latest incident was most common among the public thanks to the media, he added. 
"Most deaths happened among those coming from lower Myanmar. They are working very hard. They are working here to escape from their poverty. The death toll is 114 but there 130 on the list. Those who were not on the list and went missing are too many. They are not less than 200," said Tin Hlaing. 
He said relatives of military generals and rebel leaders could be seen across the Hpakant area. 
MPs said proposals were submitted to parliament about systematic jade mining, dredging of the Uru River and systematic dumping of wastes but they did not work. Excessive mining and the use of heavy machinery would contribute to more landslides in the region, they commented. 
Im Pharaung Gam, member of the Kachin State Parliament for Hpakant Constituency No (2) said he had frequently tabled motions in parliament for systematic jade mining and dumping but nothing happened. 
"Under the present government, 11 sites are allowed for disposing of dump soil. But most dump soil recklessly goes to other places. The government is weak in controlling them. Lower level administrative officials are reportedly taking bribes in this context. If the situation continues so, more landslides will happen. There is no site for dump soil. There are lots of jade blocks only. Consequences will come for sure. The jade mining industry is a lucrative job for a handful of people. Later, there will only be dump soil sites for our local residents, said the MP. 
Hpakant township on early November 21
The collapse of a mountain of dump soils created by jade mining in Lonekhin Village-tract, Hpakant Township, Kachin State, on November 21 enveloped 70 makeshift huts and some 200 people went missing, according to local residents. However, search operations ended after 114 dead bodies were discovered on November 25. Landslides occur in Hpakant on a monthly basis. The latest incident is the 36th time in this year. 
Members of local free funeral service societies said landslides are most common in the areas of Lonekhin, Hmawhsiza, Tamakham, Hsaitaung, Kayinchaung and Hsaijarbwam. According to the sources from Hpakant police force, 29 people died in landslides in 2013 while 33 people died in 19 landslides up to mid-August in 2014. A police officer said the number of landslide deaths could be around the same as that from other local police stations. 
The figures from the Ministry of Mines, in the Hpakant region, show that 808 private jade mining companies are running on 15,638 blocks. Each block measures one acre. Moreover, there are 222 joint-venture businesses engaging in jade mining on 302 blocks. 
According to the government figures collected in 2014, the Hpakant region has 33,128 households with a population of 312,528. There are 21 village-tracts with 116 villages. Among those villages, 66 are extended ones.