Abandoned gold mine in Narathiwat province
Abandoned gold mine in Narathiwat province
In the utmost south of Narathiwat province, kilometers before Malaysia, there are tunnels of an abandoned gold mine open for tourists and gold panning in the river.
Tomo village, Phu Khao Thong sub-district, Sukhirin district, Narathiwat province.
บ้านโต๊ะโมะ ตำบลภูเขาทอง อำเภอสุคิริน จังหวัดนราธิวาส
(sometimes miss-spelled โต๊ะโม๊ะ)
How I got there by public transport:
Train 37 from Bangkok to Sugnai Kolok สุไหงโคลก, schedule 15:10-11:20 (next day), real 15:12-12:58, distance 1143 km. (Btw this is the longest train trip possible in Thailand.) Songtheo (blue, line 1925, Sugnai Kolok to Sukhirin สุคิริน via Waeng แว้ง) 16:12-17:17 for 60 Baht. Not from bus station (1.9 km by road west of railway station) and not in front of railway station, but from here:
6.0240262,101.9650339 = 6°01’26.5″N 101°57’54.1″E
In Sukhirin, I spotted another songtheo (blue, line 8282) Tan Yong Mat ตันหยวมัส – Sukhirin. This offers a shortcut when coming by train from Bangkok (stops at Tan Yong Mat railway station).
Stay over night in Sukhirin. Walking around looking for a restaurant, a local woman says hello. She works for the government and speaks good English and arranges for a colleague who works in Phu Khao Thong (24 km by road, no public transport) to take me there the following day and arranges a guide to take me to the mine as well. Otherwise I would have asked at my hotel where to rent car and driver.
Collection of old mining equipment, optimistically called
“Tomo Gold Mine Museum Park”
5.802046,101.7118822 = 5°48’07.4″N 101°42’42.8″E
Near Wat Tomo and Museum, my guide collects safety helmet, flashlight and rubber boots (they find a pair that fits me) and we continue 2.0 km southwards to
5.7856226,101.714553= 5°47’08.2″N 101°42’52.4″E
From that spot, it’s about 100 m east to one of the tunnels:
We have a short look inside (bat in picture)
and return to car (coordinates above). Start 11:22 from there (my guide in picture, way gets better shortly after)
Arrive at tunnel entrance 11:54. I feel a sudden pain on my leg: it’s a leech that’s about to bite. Show it to my guide who rips it off before it can bite.
We enter the tunnel. For estimated over 100 m, we can still see light from the entrance, then only our flashlights. Water running on the ground throughout the trip. At the entrance, there is mud which makes walking difficult (rubber boots get stuck), then solid ground and ankle deep water.
Equipment and wooden railway sleepers lying around (iron rail is gone):
Part of the wall is covered with white powder which is hydrophobic, tiny dew drops reflect light silvery:
Deeper inside, railway tracks are still there. Lots of bats, we had to stop on some occasions to let them fly past.
This is the rock layer that contains gold?
Partially flooded tunnel:
Waterfall in the tunnel:
My guide climbing up. About 45 degree, with water flowing down. I didn’t know yet that this is the way out.
It goes up and up with no end in sight. Climbing up is easier than climbing down under these conditions, which means this is a one way road. To reassure me that everything will be fine, I ask how often he has gone this way in the cave. I should not have asked: it’s his first time! Then back to vertical. After a stretch where the water was knee-deep (I had liquid – sweat! – in my rubber boots anyway) finally the exit 13:02 around here:
5.7785771,101.7037182 = 5°46’42.9″N 101°42’13.4″E
History of the gold mine (will provide selected translation later):
Back at car 13:44. No mobile signal in the area.
Helmet is imperative, I hit my head several times. Solid shoes are imperative, and as there is water ankle deep to knee deep rubber boots are recommended. I had slight chafing on ankle and leg (upper rim of rubber boots).
It did not feel particularly hot in the tunnel, nonetheless my clothes were wet with sweat and the liquid in the rubber boots must have been sweat, until flooding when the water was knee deep.
The locals pan gold in the rivers. However the day I was there, there was no panning. Have to go again another day.
The gold mine was treated in a Thai language magazine
สารคดี ฉบับ เหมืองโต๊ะโมะ ปีที่ ๑๑ ฉบับที่ ๑๒๘ ตุลาคม ๒๕๓๘ http://kreebook.tarad.com/product.detail_596276_th_2817240
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