LAMPANG – Villagers in Wang Nua district of Lampang province have been supplementing their income by panning for gold for generations. It takes a lot of patience, but it seems to be worth it.
Standing in the knee-deep brook that branches out from the Wang River, Kallaya Yamdeelert shovelled wet sand into a wooden pan that looked like an upside-down Vietnamese hat. Submerged slightly below the surface, the pan was shaken left and right while Kallaya swept the sand away layer by layer.
“Gold is heavy, so it naturally works its way down to the bottom of the pan,” she said while attempting to get rid of the unwanted mud, rocks and sand. Her wooden pan – known among locals as a wan – was almost empty, so her eager eyes were sweeping over it for something that glittered.
“It’s impossible to tell whether we will go home with some gold or we will go home empty-handed. It all depends on luck,” said the 40-year-old local of Wang Nua district of Lampang province.
But Kallaya was apparently lucky that day. What was left at the very bottom of her pan were tiny bits of gold – some smaller than 1mm in diameter. Pan after pan, by the end of the day, Kallaya had gold which, she said, was worth 200 to 300 baht – necessary income for not just herself, but also her family.
Gold panning is a process that requires great patience and stamina. You can stand in the water for hours trying to extract gold from sand and get nothing. But the locals consider gold panning their hobby – something they do when they are free from the rigours of farming or from their routine agricultural work.
According to chief of the Wang Kaew tambon administration organisation, Panom Jenjad, gold panning is an activity that has been carried out by the locals for several generations. Tambon Wang Kaew in Wang Nua district is well known among not just people in the neighbourhood, but also those from other provinces as a gold-panning site.
“Geographically speaking, tambon Wang Kaew is located at the border of Lampang province, adjacent to the Wang River,” explained Panom. “The area is also [situated near] the Phi Pan Nam mountain range, which extends across Chiang Rai, Phayao and Lampang. Earth crust displacement in the old times brought about the influx of underground gold that mainly originated from the Phi Pan Nam range. When underground rainwater from the mountain flows down and branches out into brooks, gold comes with it.”
Interested? Before you rush to Wang Nua district, read the full story. There are restrictions.