Breaking the Chains of Suffering: A Call for Human Rights and Reform in Myanmar's Jade Mines

Breaking the Chains of Suffering: A Call for Human Rights and Reform in Myanmar's Jade Mines
Myanmar Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation Committee visit to Kachin State Mines, by WFD via Flickr, 2019


Alexandra Posta

East and South Asia Human Rights Researcher

Global Human Rights Defense

A harrowing landslide at a jade mine in Hpakant, Kachin State, Myanmar has left a trail of devastation, claiming the lives of at least 33 individuals (Aljazeera, 14 August 2023). The disaster unfolded in the midst of heavy rain and flooding, underscoring the perilous conditions that miners in this region face (Aljazeera, 14 August 2023).

Hpakant, nestled in the rugged landscapes of northern Myanmar, boasts a status as a global center for jade mining (Chay et al, 16 August 2023). The area is home to the world's largest and most profitable jade mines, with Myanmar accounting for around 70% of the world's jade production (Chay et al, 16 August 2023). However, the glimmers of wealth are marred by an industry plagued by conflict, corruption, and environmental degradation (Cai & Head, 14 August 2023). Demand from neighboring China propels this trade, which is valued at an estimated $31 billion, nearly half of Myanmar's official GDP (Cai & Head, 14 August 2023).

Beyond the immediate tragedy, the recurring disasters in the jade mines of Hpakant reveal a deeper human rights crisis (Cai & Head, 14 August 2023). Impoverished miners, often migrants seeking a means of survival, are subject to abysmal working conditions (Cai & Head, 14 August 2023). The industry exploits these vulnerable individuals, placing them at constant risk of death and injury due to landslides (Cai & Head, 14 August 2023). The dangerous nature of the work is exacerbated by the unregulated practices within the sector (Cai & Head, 14 August 2023). These grim circumstances emphasize the need for stringent labor protections and safety regulations (Cai & Head, 14 August 2023).

As the world mourns the loss of life in yet another preventable disaster, urgent action is imperative (CGTN, 16 August 2023). Myanmar must prioritize comprehensive reforms in the jade mining sector to prevent further loss of life and ensure the wellbeing of its citizens (CGTN, 16 August 2023). International bodies and human rights advocates must collaborate to pressure the country's authorities into adopting transparent practices, stringent regulations, and improved safety measures (Cai & Head, 14 August 2023). The recurring tragedies should serve as a wake-up call, urging Myanmar to transform its jade industry into a safe, sustainable, and equitable venture (Aljazeera, 14 August 2023). Failure to take swift and decisive action will only perpetuate the cycle of suffering and exploitation that has plagued this industry for far too long (CGTN, 16 August 2023).



Su Chay, Sophie Jeong and Kathleen Magramo. (16 August 2023). At least 32 dead after landslide at Myanmar jade mine. CNN. Available at

CGTN. (16 August 2023). Death toll rises to 33 in jade mine landslide in Myanmar. CGTN. Available at

Derek Cai and Jonathan Head. (14 August 2023). Myanmar landslide: At least 30 missing at jade mine. BBC. Available at

Aljazeera. (14 August 2023). Dozens of people missing after Myanmar mine landslide. Aljazeera. Available at