Viet Nam News
BẮC KẠN — Illegal gold mining in the Kim Hỷ Nature Reserve in the northern province of Bắc Kạn continues to be a puzzle for authorities despite their best efforts to put an end to the activity.
Over the years, local police, forest managers and nature resources and environment experts have joined forces to organise several raids to prevent illegal gold mining, but the gold fever refuses to die down.
The Kim Hỷ Nature Reserve, covering 29,300ha, is considered to contain valuable rare minerals, especially gold.
Local residents said that unlicensed gold mining had been happening for more 30 years.
The miners started off using simple tools but then upgraded to heavyweight machinery to excavate the area in the search for gold hidden in the sand and soil.
A local man, who wished to remain anonymous, said that he and many others had been hired to transport food and fuel to miners in the park once a week, and received a payment of VNĐ400,000-500,000 (US$17-21) for a day.
A Vietnam News Agency’s correspondent investigating the case said that the closer you got to the centre of the park, the louder you can hear the machines as they dug away at the soil.
The miners are divided into different teams with about seven or eight members each.
Most of them are from remote districts in Bắc Kạn Province, but there are others from Thái Nguyên Province in the north.
Hùng from Pác Nặm District said he was unemployed and had resorted to this work in order to make a living.
The correspondent also said that the area were laid to waste, with rain-soaked mud covering everything.
Nguyễn Tiến Dũng, director of the Kim Hỷ Nature Reserve, said that local authorities had raided the site on many occasions, but the miners always returned after taking a short break.
Statistics from local authorities showed that there were 15 hot spots and more than 50 miners.
This year alone, local authorities have launched 29 raids, confiscating 33 pieces of equipment and destroyed more than 1km of water pipeline.
“Most of the miners do not have stable jobs and some of them are very dangerous, making it difficult for authorities to supress them,” said Dũng.
There are also only 33 forest officials working at the moment, and illegal miners are known to have hired thugs in the past to threaten and attack them.
"As soon as we launch a raid, the miners were already notified of our activities, so they all quickly hid away their equipment and made a run for it," said Dũng.
The miners have even tried spraying pesticide and making smoke to stop the forest workers.
Nguyễn Duy Huế, chairman of Kim Hỷ Commune’s People’s Committee in Na Rì District, said that most local residents were poor so they were eager to search for gold.
Nguyễn Hữu Thắng, director of the Bắc Kạn Forest Management Department, said that residents should be encouraged not to help illegal miners and they should be aware that heavy fines would be meted out if they continue to violate the rules.
The most important and most viable solution to stop this disarray is to create gainful jobs for residents so they can lead stable lives, he said. — VNS