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Gold Panning in Thailand



Thailand has rich deposits of gold just waiting to be dug up, says Adisak Thongkhaimuk, director-general of the Department of Mineral Resources.

Sa-ngad Chankaew, 58, of Bang Saphan district in Prachuap Khiri Khan, pans dirt on the river in search of gold dust

Mr Adisak revealed on Dec 8 last year that 76 gold deposits have been discovered in 31 provinces, according to scientific and geological research and surveys carried out by the department since 1985.

He said these deposits hold about 700 tonnes of gold ore, from which pure gold worth an estimated 900 billion to 1 trillion baht can be extracted.

Of these 76 gold lodes, about four or five have the potential to be developed into gold mines in the future, Mr Adisak said.

It was also believed lesser lodes were waiting to be discovered in many other areas, he added.

Mr Adisak said these deposits are mostly in granite mountains east of the upper central region and in the western part of the Korat Plateau covering the Northeast.

Tambon Ron Thong in Prachuap Khiri Khan’s Bang Saphan district in the upper South is one of the major gold producers.

Bang Saphan is known for producing top quality gold, called Thong Noppakhun or Thong Nuea Kao. Bang Saphan gold has been documented in records for hundreds of years.

A woman holds up a gold nugget after the extraction process is complete.

It fetches a much higher price than gold from other sources. A one baht weight of Bang Saphan gold sells for about 40,000 baht compared to gold from other areas which sells for about 17,000 baht. The baht weight is an old Thai measurement and equivalent to about 15 grammes.

A record from the era of King Rama IV said a one baht weight of top-grade Bang Saphan gold was priced at nine baht, which was the most expensive at the time.

But Wikorn Phonoi, head of the tambon Ron Thong administration organisation (TAO), said the gold-bearing areas in Bang Saphan were extensively mined in the old days.

These days, there is not enough gold mineral left for large-scale mining, he said.

Mr Wikorn said most areas in Bang Saphan have now become rubber plantations, although some villagers continue to prospect for gold by panning.

Prayook Kwannet feeds the fire as he heats up lumps of earth with gold dust in them

If they are lucky enough, they can obtain gold nuggets or gold particles, known as gold dust, from soil dug up from the areas.

Mr Wikorn said the government should promote Bang Saphan as a centre of gold panning to attract tourists.

Yaowalak na Ranong, 79, said in the past local people opted for simple tools such as a pan or a sieve to find gold.

They could obtain gold weighing between 70 and 100 baht. In those times, one baht of gold was priced about 60 to 70 baht.

“You never know when you can strike gold. It’s just a matter of luck,” Mrs Yaowalak said.

She said tourists are increasingly visiting Bang Saphan to see local people pan for gold and they buy gold jewellery as souvenirs, which helps boost local people’s incomes.

Buakhao Mingmuang, 57, has panned for gold for seven years to supplement his income.

He said panning involves scooping up soil in a container and washing it in a swirling motion to separate gold particles from gravel and other substances.

After heating, the lumps of earth are ground into powdery texture.

The lighter material floats to the top of the pan and is skimmed off while the heavier gold particles sink to the bottom.

Mr Buakhao said each week he can collect gold particles weighing one or two baht. This is quite a fortune given the way the gold price keeps rising, he said.

Sa-ngad Chankaew, 58, said he has searched for the precious metal in Bang Saphan for more than 20 years and had made enough money to send his children to university.

He said gold panning in Bang Saphan takes place from May to December, during which water levels in rivers and streams rise.

Glittering gold nuggets or gold dust can be found in layers of soil deposited by the river or other running water.

Kritsada Muadnoi, an adviser to the TAO chief, is planning to document the history of Bang Saphan as a producer of top-quality gold in the hope Bang Saphan will become a new tourist spot.

He said prospecting for gold the old-fashioned way with simple tools can better protect and preserve the environment and the soil than large-scale gold mining using heavy machinery.


Acid is poured into a bowl containingpowdery soil with gold dust to dissolve mineral impurities.

Another chemical liquid is added to separate gold dust.

Gold specks are visible.

Thegoldismeltedunder high heat.

The final precious product


Gold mining surveys were put on hold following a complaint by the Human Rights Commission in December 2007 concerning their effects on the environment.  The cabinet at that time ordered the policy to be revised to take into account impact on the environment and people’s health.  This revision has now been completed – paving the way for gold prospectors in Thailand.

Our guide to gold panning in four easy steps:

1. Find a stream or some other type of running water where you can see some gold mixed with sand and silt.

2. Take some of the sediment from the bottom of the stream and scoop it into the pan with some water.

3. Swirl the sediment and water in a gentle circular motion around the bottom of the pan.  At the same time tilt the pan so some of the water and sediment spill out.  When most of the sediment has fallen out you’ll see your gold nuggets at the bottom of the pan.

4. Go down to the bank with your gold and exchange for cash!

Before you reach for your gold pan and start swirling you will need to obtain a permit from the Thai government for your prospecting and you’ll also have to pay a percentage of your earnings into a fund established by the Thai government to look after the environment.  That said gold is currently riding high at 1,135 USD per oz so all the effort could be worth it.

Contact us for details of the best properties available near streams and running water.
Disclaimer: We cannot guarantee success in finding gold!


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