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The Northern Thailand Gold Rush

ABOVE Villagers pan for gold in the Wang River in Wang Nua district of the northern province of Lampang. A gold rush occurs every year during the dry season when the river level falls. REUTERS INSET Gold dust collected from the Wang River in Lampang’s Wang Nua district. SOMSAK SUKSAI

 

CHIANGRAI TIMES -Gold prospectors are roaming Wang Nua district of the northern province of Lampang, hoping to strike it rich as gold deposits have been discovered there. Activities are now being planned to promote the little-known district as a new tourist attraction.

Until recently, gold panning in the district was a well-kept secret known only to locals, who have been doing it to supplement their incomes.

The annual gold rush among residents prompted the Department of Mineral Resources to carry out a survey to determine potential gold-bearing areas in the district.

Somboon Kositanont, director of the bureau of mineral resources zone 1 in Lampang, said a survey conducted on Feb 6-7 confirmed there was a gold deposit in Wang Nua district, particularly in tambon Wang Kaew.

The survey also discovered gold veins in Thoen and Mae Phrik districts, Mr Somboon said.

He said the gold deposit in Wang Nua district holds a fair amount of gold ore. Three grams of pure gold can be extracted from one tonne of rocks in the area, which is in keeping with accepted standards for gold-bearing deposits, Mr Somboon said.

However, Mr Somboon said the amount of gold ore in the district is not enough to be developed for large-scale commercial gold mining.

He added previous surveys also turned up more gold-bearing areas in Chiang Rai, Phrae, Phichit, Phetchabun and Sukhothai.

Wang Nua district Chief Songsak Disthan said a gold-panning festival is being planned to coincide with the Songkran celebrations in April.

The festival, which is now in its second year, is aimed at attracting visitors to the district.

Mr Songsak said the district is located on Lampang’s northern border with Phayao and Chiang Rai provinces and sits on areas which are the source of the Wang River where people come to pan for gold during the dry season every year when they do not farm rice.

Gold panning helps to boost their incomes and some could make a fortune given the way gold prices keep rising, Mr Songsak said.

Lucky prospectors can obtain gold particles or gold nuggets which can fetch thousands of baht depending on their weight, he said.

Sunee Sommee, chief of the Lampang provincial administrative organization, said residents in Wang Nua district have been panning for gold in the Wang River for a long time. Some people have made money and become wealthy panning for gold, she said.

Phanom Janejat, chief of the tambon Wang Kaew administration organization, said gold minerals in the Wang River are believed to come from Doi Luang National Park in the province which is the source of the river.

He said the gold lode in the area was in the past a secret known only among local people.

Mr Phanom said the district’s profile has now been raised as visitors keep coming to see local people pan for gold.

“This year, the Wang River’s level has fallen, making it easy to pan for gold. Gold panning will be the main theme of Songkran this year,” he said.

Somsri Uttama, a gold-panning villager, said a gram of collected gold particles sells for about 1,300 baht.

“Many people come here to find gold. Some are lucky, others are not. It’s a matter of luck,” she said.

Writer: Somsak Suksai

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