But the secretive trade is poorly regulated and enormously dangerous.
The area around Hpakant has suffered a string of deadly landslides in recent years, with a major incident in November 2015 leaving more than 100 dead.
Numerous other smaller accidents have left scores more dead or injured.
The victims are usually impoverished locals or itinerant workers scouring the area for pieces of of jade left behind by the industrial diggers that have turned the region into a moonscape of environmental destruction.
While the mining firms — many linked to the junta-era military elite — are thought to be raking in huge sums, local people say they are shut off from the bounty.