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Myanmar: deaths in mines

Nearly one hundred people dead and missing at least another hundred (but there is little hope to find them still alive). Is this is the result of a landslide in a mine in Myanmar.

Just another case of deaths in mines without any security system: a price in blood and human lives that nobody talks or writes about.
The greatest part of the jade in the official markets is extracted in three countries: China, Korea and Myanmar (formerly Burma). Mines are quite often located in hard to reach areas: normal roads disappear into the forest where begins the hell for those who live in the miners, their guards and, of course, for Chinese buyers.

Extraction and trade of mineral usually occur outside of normal commercial channels. Almost half of jade mined in Myanmar is sold in China and, very often, on unofficial market. Billions of dollars (according to data of the ash Center at Harvard University): this market reached eight billion dollars, one-sixth of the entire GDP of Burma.
Nothing of this money remains in Myanmar: most of it goes to Chinese entrepreneurs and armed gangs that rules and permit mining companies to extract and to traffic drugs.

Mine workers are often treated in conditions of semi-slavery. Life goes digging with rudimentary; the only break is for sleeping a few hours or for consuming drugs. The two things are inseparable since several years. Often workers are “convinced ” (the first “dose”, usually is given free) to take drugs to be able to withstand the gruelling work shifts. Heroin, methamphetamine and opium (Myanmar is one of the largest producers of the latter, after Afghanistan). Shortly they become dependant and do not work anymore for a wage (even if ridiculous) but only for receiving their daily “dose”. That’s like their lives go on, until death.

Often a death like in the past few days. The collapse occurred in the state of Kachin. In the same place where, only three years ago, 100 thousand men, women and children had been evacuated during the violent clashes between the Burmese army and Kachin.

Many people know their situation. Authorities knew it: in an interview on the New York Times, Yang Houlan, Chinese ambassador to Myanmar, said that entrepreneurs and business people regularly and systematically violate Burmese laws and Chinese “business man” “cross the border to smuggle out jade”.

A situation that none, up to now, has done anything to change. One is the reason: the jade market is pretty darn prosperous and it grows quickly: during the last quarter of 2014, revenues in the export of jade in Myanmar increased by 30per cent over the same period last year.

Many of these stones are sold in all markets around the world, but especially in China (where they have a huge value tied to the belief that they can have healing properties or they can bring luck).These stones are not green: they are spotted of red, the blood of thousands of people who live as slaves in a hell of mines where they extract the jade.

C.Alessandro Mauceri






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