Gold-Rush in Northern Thailand

World Today

There’s a gold-rush going on in the hills of northern Thailand! And villagers are scouring a river, hoping to cash in. CCTV’s Martin Lowe joined the hopefuls and filed this report.

Gold-Rush in Northern Thailand

Gold-Rush in Northern Thailand

There's a gold-rush going on in the hills of northern Thailand! And villagers are scouring a river, hoping to cash in. CCTV's Martin Lowe joined the hopefuls and filed this report.

This is Somkid’s lucky day. She’s found gold worth 30 US dollars. It’s her best day in five years of panning, waist deep in the Wang River at Lampang Province in northern Thailand.

In a skill passed down through generations, villagers sift the silt, discard the stones and hope to strike it rich. Gold is heavier than soil – so as the river water washes away the earth, any gold found sinks to the bottom of the pan. “I’m very happy today; I wish I could find this much gold everyday. I will spend the money on my children”, says Somkid.

The gold originates in a nearby mountain range. It’s washed down by winter rains – and in summer when river levels fall, villagers come to try their luck.

The gold found here is worth three US dollars a milligram. It’s possible to earn 10 to 15 dollars a day during the dry season. It’s not a full-time job but it supplements the income of farmers and forestry workers.

With reasonable good fortune these prospectors here can earn 300 dollars in the four or five months of the dry season when the river’s low enough to pan for gold. And in an area where the average wage is only 1,500 dollars a year, that makes time on the river well spent.

There isn’t enough gold here to make commercial mining worthwhile, but for those with the stamina to spend their days in the water, it pays for small luxuries.

Today there are just a handful of women working the river. But when news of Somkid’s big find gets out, dozens more will come — all hoping for the big strike.