A man demonstrates how to find gold in Jin Gua Shih. (Photo/Wang Yuan-mao)
A gold mine in northern Taiwan that was abandoned over 20 years ago is believed to still contain over NT$65 billion (US$2.2 billion) worth of unearthed gold.
An Australian gold mining firm had visited Taiwan Sugar Corporation, the authority in charge of the abandoned mines, in April and May this year, in the attempt to exploit the mines. Their request was rejected by the sugar company. The abandoned mines have now become a popular tourist sites for foreign visitors and locals. The site is appreciated for its cultural heritage and beautiful scenery.
The sugar company's chairman, Chen Chao-yih, confirmed that gold mining firms from Australia did get in touch with him, but there is currently no plan to exploit the mines. Chen refused to disclose the name of these companies.
"It is not up to the Taiwan Sugar Corporation to decide whether to exploit the mines. The company does not have the capability, and such work would have to be outsourced. We could evaluate in case we import foreign technology. But we should also consider the environmental impact assessment," said Chen.
On the other hand, an official from the Ministry of Economical Affairs said it is impossible to outsource the exploitation of the mine, but it is possible to invite a foreign party to collaborate, and the authorities are willing to help to break through current restrictions.
Jin Gua Shih is known as Taiwan's biggest gold mine at 1,300 hectares. The economic ministry ordered a halt to all operations in 1987, and the site's management was handed over to the sugar company in 1991. Taiwan Sugar Corporation was said to have gained the rights for mining in 2004, after which the several foreign companies that have expressed their interest have all been refused.
Yu Bing-sheng, a professor at National Taipei University of Technology and a specialist in mineral resources, said that five gold mining companies from the US, Canada and South Africa from the top 10 in the world have expressed their interest in the past decade to exploit the mines in Jin Gua Shih. But they were all turned down because of Taiwan's rigid mining laws.
"Taiwan Sugar Corporation is too conservative. It should make more efforts to utilize the mines, and combine the excavation and tourist businesses into one to bring in even more business opportunities," said Yu.
"An Australian mining company said there could be more gold if we could dig to 500 meters deep. This means that Jin Gua Shih still has the potential to produce more gold," said Yu.
Foreign companies keep searching out the sugar company for mining opportunities at Jin Gua Shih because the number of spots for mining gold has dropped around the world.