Khao Phanompa Gold Mine เหมืองแร่ทองคำเขาพนมพา
I learnt of gold mines in Thailand by chance:
There seem to be several industrial scale gold mines (operated by mining companies) and small scale gold mines or gold panning.
With hindsight, this is no surprise, as many places in Thailand have "gold" in their name. Details here: http://christianpfc.blogspot.com/2014/11/kanchanaburi-general-observations.html
16°18'05.7"N 100°33'09.6"E = 16.301594, 100.552664
About 40 km by car from Phichit, about 30 km by air south-east of Phichit town, about 3 km west of hwy 11. The industrial mine (Chatree Gold Mine Akara Resources) is about 10 km east, partially in Petchaboon province.
From Phichit bus station, take bus 2234 (Phichit-Sak Lek พิจิตร-สากเหล็ก) to Sak Lek, 30 Baht, 8:59-9:22. From Sak Lek bus station, take bus 173, 15 Baht, 10:10-36. From hwy 11, walk and hitchhike to mine (3.6 km by road). That's over 2 h for a distance of 40 km from Phichit town, return even worse. While it is possible to go there by public transport, I would not recommend it. I was quoted 800 Baht for return trip for car hire from Phichit.
Already near hwy 11 I spot people crushing stones manually:
and finally with a mechanical crusher with subsequent density separation:
The mountain comes into sight, as you can see on satellite picture, there is bare soil.
Digging at the surface:
Underground mining involves heating the rock with fire to make it brittle, the red cloth is the jacket of the person directing air from a blower into the cave:
A worker shows me a piece of rock with some gold he found. A lucky coincidence, as most gold is dispersed in the stone and will appear in later stages of processing the rock.
Dirty, dusty and dangerous work! The roads are covered in dust, every step produces a cloud of dust and in some areas I sink into dust unto my ankles.
Rock black from soot from fire:
The rock around this cavity is still hot, I enter shortly and it feels like being in a sauna:
The rock is then crushed in a hammer mill and the resulting sand/dust run over a porous mat for density separation:
The substance that is caught in the mat is then further separated by panning and the remains are treated with mercury. Unfortunately, I couldn't witness these steps, but saw the mercury in two places. Upon evaporation of the mercury (highly toxic!), gold remains.
I asked several gold shops in Phichit town if they have gold from Khao Phanom Pa. None had. But in one shop, staff showed me pictures from 1999, when there was a little gold rush with many more people than now.
In one spot, they dig at the surface, and not far away they go underground. I would dig up the entire mountain from the surface, much better working conditions. On the other hand, there might be a lode that is worth going underground. But I wonder if there are any engineers or mineralogists who can assess this. Furthermore I wonder how they analyze gold content and find conditions that give the best yield.
On my return, I saw a traffic sign "สถานีแต่งแร่ทองคำ อบน.พิจิตร Goldsmithy" as opposed to the one I followed "เหมืองแร่ทองคำเขาพนมพา Khao Phanompa Gold Mine" but the way leads to the mountain so I assume it's a mistranslation (but the Thai is different, maybe there is really another place?).
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