Three Arrested in Laos for Illegally Mining Gold on Land Leased by Chinese Company

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A large gold nugget, with an estimated sale price of USD 100,000-150,000, is on display at an auction preview, May 6, 2010 in Los Angeles.
A large gold nugget, with an estimated sale price of USD 100,000-150,000, is on display at an auction preview, May 6, 2010 in Los Angeles.

Authorities in Laos’ Luang Prabang province arrested three rural villagers for trespassing after they tried to mine gold on land granted in a concession to a Chinese company, RFA has learned.

The villagers, from Phapon village in Luang Prabang’s Pak Ou district, were initially detained by Chinese employees of the Thian Chin Huakjan-Lao mining company. The Lao authorities arrived later to take them in. They were accused of illegally mining gold on the concession land.

“Three Hmong people stole gold from the cave,” an employee of the company, who requested anonymity to speak freely, told RFA’s Lao Service Thursday, identifying the suspects as members of the large ethnic minority group.

“We don’t know if they will be released or just fined. It depends on the district authorities to make that decision,” the employee said.

A village official told RFA that while they were aware of the situation, the coronavirus emergency has made it difficult to assist the detained villagers.

“I heard about the [three] having done that, but I couldn’t do anything to help them right now because of the lockdown,” said the official.

Local media reports say that the three were fined five million kip (U.S. $557) each in exchange for their releases, but RFA was not able to confirm that they were released.

District officials, the military, and police officers declined to provide RFA with information about the case, but a resident of a nearby village told RFA that this was not the first incident involving people sneaking into the mines.

“Many of the villagers have gone to the area. Some are even from other provinces,” said the villager, who requested anonymity to speak freely.

“The mine belongs to the Chinese, since they have the concession. Outsiders are not allowed to enter, so [those three] were trespassing. So that’s why the soldiers came in to arrest them,” the villager added.

Dozens of villagers entered a cave on the land in April last year, hoping to collect gold, when disaster struck. Three were trapped and killed by a landslide they caused by their own digging.

Another four were suffocated by exhaust from their own gasoline-powered equipment in a separate illegal mining incident in September.

After those incidents, the police and village authorities banned unauthorized entry onto the land. But despite the ban, poor jobless villagers still take the chance.

The Chinese-owned company began mining the cave on the concession in 2018 and built a gold processing plant there. Any gold found on the parcel is exported to China for as long as the 50-year concession is in effect.

Much of Laos’s recent economic growth is generated through land concessions to China, Thailand and Vietnam for natural resources, including timber, agricultural products, minerals, and energy, but the policies have sparked friction over land taken without proper compensation, environmental pollution.

Land grabs and the appropriation of public property to turn over to foreign and domestic companies are common in Laos, and villagers affected by them often refuse to speak out publicly because they fear retribution.

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Max Avary. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

Comments (2)

Anonymous Reader

From what I have seen from YouTube and the people filming the arrested of these people, the people weren't restricted from going into the cave to dig for golds. The people stated that the soldiers and its government allow the people to go and search for gold but when the gold miners came out, the soldiers would demand and confiscated the gold, plus it demanded the miners pay in order to be released. Some miners were able to pay and were allowed to be released, whereas the three people who couldn't afford to buy were arrested. I blamed on the Lao officials. The Chinese has no business in Laos. The Hmong needs to be strong and resilient. The corrupted Lao officials will know sooner or later that they cannot just sit back and relax. The Hmong will take what is theirs and break away from the pathetic Lao government and its officials.

Apr 21, 2020 02:11 AM

World Watcher

from Watching U

Not sure who is going to stole Gold now

Apr 17, 2020 07:03 PM





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