Taking one quick look at history shows us that Laos has often been a country of chaos. Though this land was ravaged in the 60’s and 70’s it has bounced back and is now once again full of beauty, hope, and opportunity. Many mining companies recognized the opportunity in this gold rich land in the early 2000’s and began to plan for their own mines. Setting up their mining projects meant carefully clearing out the bomb-laden landscape.
The very first foreign mining complex opened in 2002 and was set 250 miles southeast of the Laos capital, Vientiane. Early projections figured that this single operation would be able to produce more than a billion dollars’ worth of gold, and an additional two billion in copper. If that doesn’t show that there is gold to be found in Laos then I don’t know what would.
This is an extremely poor country riddled with poverty, but in spite of that there are gold-rich areas throughout the country.
Mekong River Gold
The Muang Ang Kham district found near Sepon has gold. The name Muang Ang Kham adequately translates to “the gold valleys”. Just what you’re looking for! In fact, the locals here have been panning for gold since the war. When the bombs fell gold was found in the rock that was upheaved leading to the coining of the term “bomb crater geology”.
Outside of the Sepon area you should turn to the great Mekong River. Communities have been using this river as a resource forever and gold prospecting is no exception. Just following along the river you are likely to come across men and women waist deep with large round pans.
You are far more likely to find small dust and flakes than you are to find nuggets, but then that can be said of most places and shouldn’t detour you.
If you look carefully you may notice that many, if not all, of the locals will use mercury while panning. Since they are mostly finding fine alluvial gold, the mercury can aid them in their search even if it is detrimental to their health in the long run. In such a poor country finding gold can mean the difference between being able to feed your family and watching them go hungry. For many the health risk is worth the reward.
Also keep in mind that the high price of gold has caused renewed interest in gold over the past decade. This means hope for many and has led to more individuals trying their hand at panning.
Other Mineral Resources
Although gold is found throughout the country, there are an abundance of other minerals that are of interest in Laos.
Copper is currently the primary resource mined in the country. Many of the copper mining operations do produce gold and silver as a byproduct, but it is the copper that is most profitable.
Other base metal resources include tin, lead, zinc, and other commodities like potash, gypsum and coal.
There are also many quality gemstones that are mined in Laos. Much like the famous gemstone mines of Thailand, there are valuable minerals in Laos as well including spectacular sapphires and rubies.