While the days when people could pan for gold along the banks of Keelung River (基隆河) are long gone, residents in the former gold mining towns of Jiufen (九份) and Jinguashih (金瓜石) in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Ruifang District (瑞芳) said they have recently spotted “gold prospectors” in the area.
Locals said these people came fully equipped with water pumps, pipes, air compressors and filters that they used for pumping water from the river and filtering sand and rocks from the river.
They included both Taiwanese and foreigners, who declined to talk about what they were doing when asked, the residents said.
Local residents said they have seen too many people come to the area dreaming of finding gold. Some are said to have found what they were looking for, but many are just rumors, they added.
“If you want to pan for gold, you need to know how to distinguish it from sand,” said Chen Shih-cheng (陳石成), a former miner with more than 40 years of experience in the field.
Heavy rainfall can sometimes wash down parts from a gold mine high in the mountains. These particles, which end up getting mixed with sand in a riverbed, are what locals call gold dust, Chen said.
Gold dust is slightly larger than sand and may be easier to spot in gaps between rocks, he said, adding that those found in Keelung River are about 80 percent pure gold.
“I’ve heard that someone found 50g of gold dust in the river, which cost about NT$60,000 at the time,” Chen said, but added that finding gold dust in the river these days is rare.
He added that he has never heard of anyone getting rich by panning for gold.
Hard rock mining takes a lot of manpower, time and money, he said.
Asked if there is still gold in the shuttered mines in Jiufen and Jinguashih, Chen said: “I’ve heard about it, but who knows?”