Soldiers have been sent to northern Burma to protect an enormous jade boulder that could weigh up to 50 tons.

The senior minister in Kachin state, Lajun Ngan Seng, says the raw jade was discovered in the mining region known as Hpakant just over a week ago.

Still half buried, it is difficult to know its exact size.

But he says authorities believe it may be 18 feet high, weighing up to 50 tons.

Burma is one of the world's biggest producers of jade, most found in the conflict-torn mountains of Kachin, where ethnic rebels have been fighting the government for more than half a century.

Most of the gemstones, considered to be of the highest quality, are smuggled over the border to China.


"It's being guarded by soldiers," the minister said, adding that after it is completely unearthed, "We'll decide what to do with it."

Hpakant has been closed off to large-scale miners since 2011, because of renewed fighting between government troops and rebels with the Kachin Independence Army.

But individual miners and villagers, using rudimentary equipment, sometimes even their bare hands, have not stopped looking.

Dwut Lar, a church official with ties to the rebels, said the government and the rebel group were in discussions about the giant jade rock.

He said the insurgents were offered 10% of its yet-to-be-determined value, but rejected that as far too low.