MAC: Mines and Communities

Eight Die as Gem Mine Collapses

Published by MAC on 2005-07-12

Eight Die as Gem Mine Collapses

By Associated Press/Rangoon

July 12, 2005

At least eight miners were killed and a dozen more—all women— remained missing Tuesday after a gem mine collapsed in northeastern Burma, the government said.

Three gem pits at the mine in Mongshu collapsed on July 3, trapping miners and destroying several buildings, gem industry sources said. Northern Burma is a world-famous gem-producing region, most notably for rubies.

"Eight bodies have been recovered and about a dozen people are missing while several were injured," Deputy Mines Minister Myint Thein said.

A ministry official, citing a report from a search team, said four men and four women had died, while seven others, including one woman, were injured. Twelve women were missing, the official said.

Gem industry sources, however, said many more people may have died. "We believe that the casualty figure is much higher," said a gem merchant who operates a mine in Mongshu. "Mine pits are some 300 to 400 feet (90 to 120 meters) deep, and it is dangerous as well as difficult to dig too deep."

The merchant, like others involved in the industry, spoke on condition of anonymity because the military government discourages publicity about disasters.

Mining industry sources said the area has been cordoned off by local authorities since last week while search and rescue efforts continue.

The state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported on July 5 that torrential rains caused a landslide in the Mongshu gem area, killing people and destroying buildings. The report provided no further details.

Mongshu is a gem-rich town in a remote area of Burma 's Shan State , 600 kilometers (380 miles) northeast of Rangoon . Both local miners and joint ventures in which the military-run Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. is a partner dig for rubies there.

Gems are currently one of the main sources of income for the military-ruled country.

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