YANGON - A landslide in northern Myanmar's notoriously dangerous jade mining region killed 13 people, a local official said Friday, the latest deadly incident to hit the secretive billion-dollar industry.

The men died when a wall of unstable earth collapsed and buried them in Kachin state, which is the chief source of the stone that is highly prized in neighbouring China.

Rescuers pulled out 13 bodies buried by debris after combing the area early Friday but later called off the search, according to Nilar Myint, an official from the local government administrative office.

"[The victims] were searching for jade in the area," she told AFP.

Locals and officials said the victims were on land owned by a mining firm but were not thought to be company employees.

"I feel so sad to see these dead bodies. They worked here but they came from other places," Phraw Lung, who lives near the mine, told AFP.

The area where the incident happened saw a spike in deadly landslides last year as activists reported a huge increase in the activities of mining firms - many thought to have links with the army or cronies of the former military-backed government.

Those killed are usually itinerant workers who scratch a living picking through the piles of waste left by large-scale industrial mining firms in the hope of stumbling across an overlooked hunk of jade that will deliver them from poverty.

More than 100 people died in a landslide in November, with dozens of smaller accidents killing scores more.

In an October report, corruption watchdog Global Witness estimated that Myanmar jade produced in 2014 alone was worth $31 billion, with most profits going to powerful military and ex-junta figures instead of the state coffers.

The group said the secretive jade industry might be the "biggest natural resource heist in modern history".