Illegal gold extraction hurts Quang Nam environment

By Dac Thanh   April 5, 2021 | 07:53 am GMT+7
Gold bandits who have set up shop at Bong Mieu mine have been discharging chemicals and mud into the local environment, evading routine raids.
These days, the engine is noisy around the clock at the Bong Mieu gold mine. This area is located in the middle of mountains and forests, more than one kilometer from the center of Tam Lanh commune, Phu Ninh district to the south.The Bong Mieu gold mine, which has been exploited since the French colonial period, is considered one of the largest gold reserves in the country. In 2005, Bong Mieu Co., Ltd. was licensed to exploit this gold mine and the license expired in 2016. Then, Quang Nam province asked the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to close the gold mine, but so far it has not been real. show. Over the years, the gold mine is not strictly managed, so people from many places come here to seek luck.

These days, the sounds of engines can be heard around the clock at Bong Mieu gold mine in the central Quang Nam Province. The mine is in the middle of a forested mountain, more than a kilometer south of Tam Lanh Commune in Phu Ninh District. Bong Mieu, exploited since the French colonial period, is considered one of the largest gold reserves in the country.
In 2005, Bong Mieu Gold Mining Co., Ltd. (BMGMC) was licensed to exploit the mine until 2016. Ever since, it has been loosely managed, with many hopefuls arriving here to try their luck.

Gold mining camps were temporarily set up, scattered among acacia trees, with the living, cooking and washing items of the gold bandits.

Temporary gold bandit camps are strewn among acacia trees.

Gasoline, food, and gas stove were brought into the cellar door to serve illegal gold mining. Every day, we go into the tunnel hundreds of meters to dig ore, to eat lunch at noon, a resident said.The method of manual gold mining with the old, spontaneous pit has many potential risks and many fatal accidents have happened over the past time.

Gasoline, food, and gas stoves are placed within the tunnel entrance.
"Every day, we enter the tunnel, hundreds of meters deep to excavate ore, then take a break at noon to eat lunch," a miner said.
Many fatal accidents have occurred here since illegal miners extract gold manually and use old equipment.

The cellar is supported by temporary trees to dig inside for gold. The area has hundreds of mountain tunnels that span tens of kilometers.

The tunnel is supported by temporary wooden beams. The area has hundreds of mountain tunnels that span tens of kilometers in depth.

Generators are arranged near the tents for lighting in the tunnel.

Generators serve to light tunnels.

Tens of sacks containing gold ore are gathered on the cliffs, waiting to be transported by motorbike to chemical tanks to soak and filter gold.

Sacks containing gold ore are arranged along the cliff, waiting to be transported by motorbike to chemical tanks to soak and filter.

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Ore incubation tanks include a mixture of cyanide that aid gold filtration. Each tank has a capacity of about five cubic meters. The soaking process lasts two to seven days and the waste is discharged directly into the environment.

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The ore, dirt and rock brought from the tunnel are transferred to a small mill, with the residue passing through filter troughs to separate gold from mud. Miners typically dig ditches to collect water from the top of the mountain to be used for filtration.
A gold miner said he gets paid VND200,000 ($8.70) working from morning to afternoon, adding "we flee each time the police come to check the place."

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Waste is often green due to chemical reactions and has a terrible odor, causing the surrounding trees to die.

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The illegal gold mining camp releases tens of cubic meters of wastewater and mud into the environment every day. Wastewater from streams flows into Bong Mieu River, before continuing downstream.
Huynh Xuan Chinh, chairman of Phu Ninh District, said local authorities regularly detain gold miners, though illegal extraction continues.

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According to Tam Lanh Commune Police, from December 2020 to the end of March 2021, the unit organized seven raids and destroyed 10 generators, a stone mill, 27 mining camps, 61 ore incubation tanks, 8,000 meters of tarpaulin, 5,000 meters of water pipelines, etc.
Police said they have limited manpower while the Bong Mieu gold mine is vast, hilly and situated near mountainous districts.
"So every time we organize a sweep, bandits hide in the forest, lay low and wait until things quiet down to resume exploitation," a representative of Tam Lanh Commune said.

Illegal gold mining activity at Bong Mieu mine in central Quang Nam Province. Video by VnExpress/Dac Thanh.

 
 
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