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Sunday July 3, 2011

Illegal gold mining area in Bau claims second life in five months

KUCHING: A teenager became the second fatality at Gunung Tabai in Taiton, Bau, this year after his father’s warning not to take part in illegal gold mining there fell on deaf ears.

Phill Gojiak, a form six student from Kampung Bijuray, informed his mother that he was taking a few gunny sacks from home to go to the mining area on Friday.

His father, upon returning home at 3pm, was furious to discover where his son had gone. His deepest fears would be realised.

With no safety equipment whatsoever, Phill went to the mine with 38-year-old Timothy Godeb. They arrived at the area at 5pm but because there were many other illegal miners already there, they had to wait their turn. They only managed to begin mining at 7.50pm.

Little did they know that the spot they had chosen was the place where Chai Say Chong, 28, was killed on March 17.

At 10pm, a loose large rock fell on them as they dug their way in the tunnel. The rock pinned Phill and crushed Timothy’s foot.

Miners nearby heard their screams and alerted the police. The Bau Fire and Rescue Department was also alerted.

Battling the dark conditions and steep entrance to the tunnel, the rescue team pulled Phill out first at 3.30am.

He was said to have suffered from a serious back injury, believed to be a broken back bone.

Phill was still making verbal contact with the rescue workers before leaving for Sarawak General Hospital. He, however, was pronounce dead at 7.50am.

Timothy was rescued at 5.10am after rescue workers succeeded in breaking the rock that held him down. He was also taken to hospital for treatment.

Bau district police chief DSP Mohd Sabri Zainol said he would ask the Resident’s Office to place a fence forbidding any illegal miners from re-entering the area.

In the incident in March, Chai was prospecting for gold some 24m underground when a slab of rock collapsed on him.

Chai, from Paku, was said to have been illegally digging for gold for the first time. Police believed head injuries were the cause of death.

In February, Bau police had arrested 46 people for illegally mining but the constant warnings from the authorities have gone unheeded.

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