Vientiane Times, 10 April 2014
The government is now working hard to crack down on illegal gold mining in numerous provinces by cooperating with relevant ministries and local authorities after being alerted by local people.
The complaints made through the input hotline of the 6th Ordinary Session of the National Assembly (NA) in December last year asked the government to address the issue because people were worried about negative environmental and health impacts.
Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines Mr Khammany Inthirath told a press conference on Tuesday the public informed authorities through the NA’s input hotline of their concerns over illegal mining by private companies in several provinces.
“The Ministry of Energy and Mines is working together with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to monitor the illegal gold mining quarries,” he said, adding that almost all the illegal sites were found along riversides of the northern and southernmost provinces.
To address the issue, the government has drafted various regulations with regards to fining and punishing the offenders.
The illegal gold mining operations were mostly found in Phongsaly, Huaphan, Xieng Khuang, Vientiane, Xekong and Attapeu provinces, as well as the capital.
“These provinces are targeted by illegal gold seekers because the gold can be mined along small and large rivers, but many illegal mining operations have been closed down in some provinces,” Mr Khammany said.
He said Lao people traditionally use local tools to dig up the soil and separate the gold mined in the river without causing any harmful side effects to the environment.
“Nowadays, the illegal operators use chemical substances such as cyanide to separate the minerals from the soil along the rivers, which is causing negative impacts on aquatic animals and severe health issues for humans when eating fish or river weeds,” he said.
The government is prioritising preserving the natural resources and protecting the environment from harmful activities, so the use of natural resources is sustainable and they will last for future generations.