Two miners killed, seven injured on New Year eve explosion in Hpakant mine

An explosion in an underground jade mine in Hpakant in Kachin state, northern Burma on December 31, 2008, at about 3 p.m. local time killed two miners and injured seven, said the owner of the mine.

The explosion occurred in the underground jade mine in Hpakant Gyi, close to Hpakant jade mining city, which is owned by one of Burma's ethnic peace groups called Pa-O National Army (PNA) chaired by Aung Kham Hti.

According to residents of Hpakant jade mining city, the death toll could be higher than what the PNA had stated.

Local jade dealers and eyewitnesses said, they heard the sound of the explosion and saw flames leaping out of the underground jade mine.

In the year 2000, there was a big accident where the water of the Uru River rushed into the underground jade mines along the riverbanks and killed about 1,000 miners and injured hundreds. However a lid was put on the information regarding the drowning of the miners by Burmese ruling junta, said jade miners in Hpakant.

Every day, the PNA's Hpakant Gyi jade mine operates on both day and night shifts--- from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to midnight with about 300 miners including overseers, 20 power shovels and about fifty 12-wheel rock trucks, added residents of Hpakant.

During mining activities, TNT explosives, different drilling machines, power shovels, rock trucks and oxygen tanks are essential for miners, said local sources.

The PNA's Hpakant Gyi underground jade mine is run under the 'Naing-Ngan-Daw Akyoto' meaning 'mutual benefit between ruling junta and mining company or organization'. However entire jade mining activities are operated by Chinese jade businessmen linked with drug smuggling, said sources close to the PNA.

At present jade markets are cold in China and with US ban on importing gem from Burma, most small jade companies have stopped mining but only some jade companies linked with drug smuggling can continue mining, said sources close to jade companies in Hpakant.

The pro-junta and PNA Chairman Aung Kham Hti's company is included in one of these jade mining companies which can survive, added local jade company sources.