Vietnam authorities to investigate illegal gold mining

News reports from Vietnam suggest that the country’s Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh has taken to heart complaints about environmental destruction caused by illegal gold mining in the Bong Mieu area.

According to the VietNamNet Bridge, Truong Hoa Binh has asked authorities in the central Quang Nam Province to investigate reports of dozens of people flocking to Bong Mieu every day to extract gold. They use cyanide to filter the gold and then release it directly into nearby streams. The practice has resulted in increased levels of pollution to both water and soil resources used by the local community.

“Despite efforts by local authorities and police to set up checkpoints, the influx has not stopped. The scavengers live in camps and when police show up, they run into the forest,” the newspaper reports.

Pollution in Bong Mieu. Photo by http://dantri.com.vn/

Pollution in Bong Mieu. Photo by Dantri.

The Bong Mieu mine was acquired by Toronto-listed Besra (TSX: BEZ) (ASX: BEZ) in 1997 through its local subsidiary, but as of April 3, 2017, the company entered into an agreement to sell the mine. Following several crises that ranged from tax arrears to infrastructure damage due to severe weather, operations were suspended in 2016.

Since then, people from surrounding towns and even from northern provinces have been extracting gold illegally at the site, increasing the risk of a pit collapse. Several of the 40 tunnels that remain there are not reinforced, local authorities say, and may fall down at any time.

In fact, Vietnamese website Dantri reports that on April 4 a man died and his wife was injured after one of the tunnels failed.

Police and environmental officers have raided the place several times, Dantri adds. However, as soon as they leave, artisanal miners return with pumps, wires, explosives, chemicals, crushers and set up tents in the place.