Social disorder has ravaged Ba Vi District’s Chu Minh Commune after locals were struck by gold fever.
Gold mining trend in Chu Minh Commune
According to Do Duy Hai, a veteran gold panner, who now trades in construction materials, gold could see a poor farmer become a billionaire overnight. If he uses his money intelligently, he could buy villas, expensive cars, and become a real estate tycoon easily.
However, gold panning also has its dark side. First, to buy a dedicated boat costs VND2-3 billion (USD95,556-143,334), which puts the person taking the loan at risk of bankruptcy. Second, the threat of destitution and social dislocation can lead to other problems. Nearly every family in Chu Minh Commune has at least one drug addict.
“Since 1994 tens of tonnes of gold must have been extracted here, but that value couldn’t cover the losses caused by the scourge of drugs we now face. The locals here may earn money easily in a short time, but the way they spend up it is much faster because most of them don’t have a proper education”, Hai added.
An official of the communal People’s Committee said that half of those who had taken loans to buy equipment were capable of paying off their debts, but the remainder suffered from serious losses. The total amount of debts owed by Chu Minh Commune was estimated in the tens of billions of VND.
Each dedicated boat used for gold sifting is worth VND1-2 billion (USD47,778-95,556) and can be used for just 3-4 years. But the additional charges to operate that boat, to hire workers cost another billion. If the boat owner doesn’t know how to balance income and expenses, then he may rapidly go bankrupt.
Since the job became popular, teenage boys aged 15-16 have worked for boat owners. At first, it offered new means of income for local families. But a few later many of the youngsters have destroyed themselves by using drugs.
A police officer in Chu Minh Commune, Do Danh Thuy said, “The commune now has 50 drug addicts. It used to have more than 80 addicts, and it was considered the drugs hot spot of Ba Vi District. Thanks to drastic measures by the local police force, the situation has gradually improved."
Most of the drug addicts used to be gold panners. They become rich quickly and fell into using drugs during long journeys along the river while searching for gold. The money saved through hard work was quickly turned to dust by their addiction.
The typical example is Do Duy Ly, a gold panner, who used to find 150-188 grammes of gold a month. He had enough money to build a spacious house for his family.
But after a long journey to Son La to sift for gold, he got addicted to drugs. The family’s economic situation grew worse. He then sold his house to satisfy his drug demand. Now the whole family have been plunged into poverty.
Another example is Tran Duy Dung. He could become a gold mining tycoon, hiring tens of workers and building a villa for his family. But he eventually got addicted like Do Duy Ly.
In 2008, he was arrested due to illegal possession and use of narcotics and sentenced eight years in prison.
Ups and downs due to gold mining
Billionaires and drug addicts appear after gold mining journeys
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