A woman uses a hammer to dig into rocks suspected to contain gold. — VNA/VNS Photo Tuấn Anh
ĐIỆN BIÊN — Illegal gold mining on Bò Tót Mountain in the northern mountainous province of Điện Biên has been posing a risk to public security since 2017.
The Molybden Việt Nam Industry JSC went bankrupt at the beginning of 2017, leaving behind the Háng Trợ gold mine.
At the end of June 2017, the Điện Biên People’s Committee issued decisions to withdraw the land and close the mine.
However, since then, illegal gold mining has become rife with locals and people travelling from other provinces such as Sơn La, Lai Châu, Lào Cai, Thái Nguyên and Hòa Bình all hoping to strike it rich.
Thào A Tính from Phì Nhừ Commune in Điện Biên Đông District said the area had become crowded and he had witnessed many accidents and even deaths while working at the mine.
Hạng A Di, chairman of the Phì Nhừ Commune People’s Committee, said many people had flocked to the mine leading to drug problems and conflicts between different gangs that caused social disorder.
Police have arrested several people for dealing heroin at the mine.
Senior Lieutenant-Colonel Hoàng Văn Hải, deputy head of the Điện Biên Đông Police, said since Molybden Việt Nam had closed, social security in the area had become worse.
Many people had set up camps and lived in the area during their search for gold.
The police needed to assign a team to work with local authorities to manage the situation.
When the rainy season arrives, people flock to the mine and face dangers such as flashfloods and landslides.
Last year, two people died in a landslide.
Hải proposed the province take different measures to control the problem, such as planting trees in the area to stop landslides.
Bùi Ngọc La, chairman of the Điện Biên Đông People’s Committee, said the district had been working to protect the area.
The district had asked police and Phì Nhừ Commune authorities to conduct regular patrols, manage the number of inhabitants, and educate residents, especially people from other provinces.
The district had not seen any serious cases related to public security here, said La.
However, this was only temporary. The best solution was to close the mine, but that was yet to receive approval.
On May 26 last year, the Điện Biên Province People’s Committee sent a letter about closing the mine to agencies.
The committee assigned the provincial Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DONRE) to preside over the work to close the mine, restore the environment and protect natural resources.
Funding for the work should be taken from the provincial budget allocated to restore the environment, and was expected to reach nearly VNĐ4.4 billion (US$191,300).
However, the Điện Biên Department of Finance said the province did not have enough money for the work, with only VNĐ400 million ($17,300) left that had been allocated for restoring the environment.
Khuê said the most difficult part of the project would be raising the money. — VNS