Villagers warned against risking their life searching for gold

An SAR team at a cave on Mount Tabai where a person lost his life in a cave-in while searching for gold. Photo: Ghazali Bujang

BAU: Villagers living around Mount Tabai here are warned against encroaching into the restricted area or to risk their life in search of gold which do not exist.

Bau police chief DSP Poge Nyaon said the police and Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) had set up a camp (post) near the area and would monitor any encroachment by villagers or outsiders.

“Warning signs have been put up around the mountain to alert people that the area is a restricted zone and nobody is allowed to enter,” he said.

The warning came after a fatal foray by three villagers last Tuesday purportedly to dig for gold in the mountain. It ended with one of them dead — buried under falling boulders deep inside the mountain’s cave last Wednesday.

The body of the victim, identified as Martin Mat Tapa, aged 25 was only retrieved after three days of painstaking operations by rescuers comprising Fire and Rescue personnel, police and local villagers last Friday.

Poge said police have identified several routes into the restricted area which have since been sealed to prevent attempts by people to venture into the caves at the mountain.

Meanwhile, Bau fire chief Tawang Lingem appealed to the local residents against venturing into the mountainous area as it was very dangerous and risky.

“Rescuers will have to risk their lives later if they are involved in search and rescue operations (to extricate trapped persons in the cave),” he said.

Last Wednesday’s tragedy involving illegal gold mining in Mount Tabai is the third incident reported in the area over the last ten years.

In a similar incident on July 2011, a 19-year-old student from Kampung Bijuray died after a large loose rock fell and pinned him.

He succumbed to his injuries at the Sarawak General Hospital (SGH), hours after he was extricated.

Four months earlier (March 2011), an illegal gold miner Chai Say Chong, 28, was also killed at the same spot by falling boulders.