An untapped gold deposit in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Jinguashih (金瓜石) believed to be worth more than NT$65 billion (US$2.17 billion) has drawn the interest of foreign companies for a long time, but owner Taiwan Sugar Corp (TSC) recently expressed doubt about conducting a joint exploration with overseas enterprises.
Over the weekend, the Chinese-language China Times quoted TSC chairman Chen Chao-yih (陳昭義) as saying that while some form of cooperation could probably be worked out, the state-owned company cannot make that decision unilaterally.
He added that the environmental impact of mining the deposit would have to be carefully evaluated before anything could be approved.
Bureau of Mines Director-General Chu Ming-chau (朱明昭) has ruled out contracting the exploration of the gold deposit to a foreign company.
Chu said that a joint venture with a local business would be a preferable solution, adding that his bureau, which is under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, would be willing to provide assistance to this end.
Ownership of the mine was turned over to TSC in 1987, when a local company that had mined gold and copper in the Jinguashih area for more than 30 years terminated its operations.
Covering an area of 1,300 hectares, Jinguashih once housed the nation’s largest gold and copper mines.
According to the China Times, companies from Australia, the US, Canada and South Africa have expressed an interest in resuming mining operations in Jinguashih for the past 10 years, but legal restrictions have prevented their proposals from being realized.
Chiu Yo-jin, TSC’s manager for land development, said that those restrictions include a ban on the transferring of mining rights by a state-owned company.
However, the government is taking steps to ease those restrictions. Chu said that if the legislature passes an amendment to foreign investment regulations, foreigners would be allowed to set up companies in Taiwan that can apply for mining permits.
This would pave the way for cooperation between TSC and companies set up with foreign capital, Chu said.
A study conducted by the Industrial Technology Research Institute estimates that there are still 52 tonnes of gold in Jinguashih.
Yu Bing-sheng (余炳盛), an associate professor at National Taipei University of Technology’s Institute of Materials Science and Engineering, quoted an Australian company as estimating that there could be more than 52 tonnes if digging is extended to a depth of 500m.