Phuket residents in tantalum rush

PHUKET TOWN: Dozens of Phuket residents have been digging recently along the left bank of the cape at Saphan Hin, in a frantic search for the metal tantalum. The scene, reminiscent of a gold rush, was sparked by an ex-miner, Khun Vichian Sonlarp, who found tantalum along the shoreline just over two weeks ago. Diggers have been finding an average of three to 10 kilograms of the metal each day, though there have been a lucky few who have dug up as much as 40 kilograms. Buyers conveniently turn up at the cape at the end of each day. The price they are willing to pay has increased dramatically, to around 35 baht a kilo. It is expected to rise further in the next few days, to as much as 40 baht. The tantalum was dumped along the shoreline with soil that the Phuket Town Municipality trucked in to strengthen the bank. Khun Tawee Tongton, a mining engineer at the Mineral Resources Office Region 2, said the tantalum “strike” is no surprise. In Phuket, tantalum can be found all over the place, particularly in Phuket Town and Amphur Kathu, where there used to be old tin mines and smelters. Tantalum is a lightweight gray metal used in making nuclear reactors, missiles, and electronics. The Phuket Town Municipality expects that in a month or so there will be no more tantalum left along the 500-meter-long bank, and then everything at Saphan Hin will return to normal. Meanwhile, they say, the “miners” will be allowed to keep on digging and making a little better living, so long as everything remains under control.

Phuket News

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