GILGIT: The traditional practice of separating gold from sand along the rivers is still alive in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Hundreds of families of a tribe called Sonewal in Shina language and Mowaan in Brosheski earn a livelihood by collecting gold specks from the sand accumulated along river banks and selling them to jewellers in Gilgit city.
Meraj Alam, resident of Diamer, told Dawn that gold was said to flow in the rivers of Gilgit-Baltistan. He said hundreds of families were associated with the trade since many decades, adding the families roamed river banks in search of gold across the region when flow in the rivers decreased in winter season.
Families of the Sonewal tribe could be seen camped at river banks in different areas of GB, staying there through winter collecting gold.
Hundreds of families earn a living by searching for the precious metal in river sand
Mr Alam said the gold gathering process was tiresome and many a time the people didn’t get what they wanted. He said the gold gathering families carried with them all the items of daily use. “Such families are like nomadic people, travelling river to river, collecting soil and then separating gold from it,” he maintained.
Amir along with his family is currently camped at the bank of Gilgit River. “We keep moving along different rivers in search of gold,” he said, adding separating gold particles from the river sand was their old profession to earn livelihoods. He said about 3,000 people of the tribe earned their living from the trade.
Amir claimed that he usually earned Rs1,500 every day collecting gold from the Gilgit River, saying since most members of the tribe were illiterate they searched for gold for a living.
But, they didn’t have any modern gadgets or techniques to boost their income. “Many surveys have confirmed the presence of gold and other minerals across the region, said Anwar Ali, director of GB minerals department, adding government patronage was needed to exploit the mineral wealth of the region for the benefit of the local population.
“As per surveys conducted for gold and base metals carried by the Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation (PMDC) and on the basis of geo-chemical and hard rock samples, around 11 prospect areas have been confirmed to have gold value ranging from 0.10 to 24 Parts Per Million (PPM) in hard rock,” Mr Ali said, adding five PPM gold was economical in the world.
The official said a total of 186 gold deposits were found across the region, but it was yet to be known how much quantity existed there.
He also said around Rs500 million worth of gemstones were being extracted annually from GB and efforts were underway to explore other precious minerals.
White-colour marble deposits of international quality are in abundance in Shigar, Skardu, Nasirabad, Hunza and Ghizer, Anwar Ali said, adding a lot of other gemstones were also extracted from the area.
The GB minerals department official said gold usually found in rocks of GB was carried to the rivers by water.
The official said the GB government had submitted a project to the federal government for approval to identify and exploit the deposits of gold and other minerals in the region.
Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2016