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By Lian Cheng
KUCHING, Mar 25: Gunung Tabai has been gazetted as part of a national park and has been closed to the public from visiting or illegal gold mining activities.
Unveiling this, Assistant Minister of Urban Planning and Natural Resources Datuk Len Talif Salleh stressed that as the place has already been gazetted as national park in 2003, no one should be there to carry out any activities without permission, least to say gold mining.
Last year, there was a company which did quarrying for limestone at one part of Gunung Tabai, but the activity had stopped after the license was not renewed.
The Kuala Rajang assemblyman also reported that Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) had conducted a preliminary inspection in the area and three days ago, they had put up signage to indicate that the area is out of bound for those without permission.
“SFC will continue with its on-going action of stopping all encroachment or other illegal activities by working together with other relevant authorities such as Land and Survey Department, Bau Resident Office and the Police,” he told DayakDaily when contacted today.
Len expressed regrets over the demise of Mat Tapa, 26, who was trapped and crushed to death by rocks in a tunnel inside a cave in Gunung Tabai past Wednesday (March 24) and called on others not to venture into the dark tunnels to the underground caves, risking their lives for rocks which may not contain much gold.
While Mat Tapa met his fate that day, his two friends who went with him survived the accident but the whole incident has the public focusing on illegal gold mining in Bau again.
This was not the first case of gold-diggers losing their lives in Gunung Tabai as there were many previous incidences in which some cases were reported by the media while others not.
A local who declined to be named told DayakDaily that it is not news that many have been venturing into the areas surrounding Gunung Tabai to mine for gold.
In actual fact, he shared that there are villages where everyone is in some ways involved in the process of gold production – whether mining, extracting gold from the ore or even the buying and selling of the extracted gold.
“It is no secret also that many people including the locals, those from other villages as well as foreigners are trying their luck every day at different parts of Gunung Tabai.
“These ‘gold-diggers’ venture into the mountain as early as 5am to avoid the afternoon heat and before mid-day, most of them would have left the caves and headed home.
“From underground caves linked by tunnels, they emerge from here and there, all carrying with them bags of rocks which they believe to have contained gold element. Some sell the rocks to those extracting the gold while others process the rocks themselves,” he said.
He observed that for some, it has already become a daily routine where they will go to the area to bring bags of rocks back to be sold, costing around RM80 per bag which may or may not contain any gold.
The question now is, is there still gold in Gunung Tabai?
This local man is quite sure that there is still gold as he had only recently purchased a piece of pure gold of about one gramme at RM200.
Even though there may still be some gold there, he speculated that the amount may be too small and insufficient for business operation.
As a local leader, however, he is also concerned about the loss of lives as the tunnels into the interior of Gunung Tabai were narrow and dark, coupled by the constant dangers of tunnels caving in that could lead to death due to injuries or even worse, suffocation or being buried alive.
He could not tell those making gold digging a livelihood to stop when their families depend on it. However, he could not help but to raise the question — is it worth it? — DayakDaily