Illegal gold mining in Borikhamxay has ceased, but the provincial governor has ordered seven district governors to take steps to ensure that the practice does not resume.
Illicit gold mining in the province came to a halt several years ago after the authorities put measures in place to stamp it out and chased away villagers found to be engaged in the practice.
Deputy Head of the provincial Administration Office, Mr Somchay Khounphasy, told Vientiane Times on Friday that unlicensed gold diggers had operated with impunity under former governors.
As far as we know there are no unauthorised groups currently searching for gold in streams, creeks or the ground, but if we find any wrongdoers we will punish them in line with the regulations, he said.
Borikhamxay Governor Dr Kongkeo Xaysongkham told provincial and district authorities not to make it easy for people to dig for gold.
In neighbouring Xieng Khuang province, six years ago a large number of illegal miners were working the streams, rivers, forests and hillsides, digging up the ground and extracting the occasional nugget.
They did untold damage to the environment because their operations polluted water sources in the area and damaged woodlands.
The provincial authorities eventually evicted and fined them, with most found to be local residents.
Many of them operated in forested areas of Hae and the Tarn mountains in Paek district and on Sunnoy mountain in Khoun district.
Scores of the miners covered up their activities by pretending they were engaged in delivering soil, sand and gravel to houses and other construction sites, to deceive the authorities.
No large groups of gold diggers were found, with most trekking into the area from nearby villages. They panned the soil in rivers and streams, and used mercury bought from China or Vietnam in the process of extracting the gold from ore.
Mercury is a highly toxic liquid metal and is used to separate the gold before it is smelted, but permeates the soil and water and is a serious health hazard.
One man in Vientiane said a friend of his owned concessions on land in Xayaboury and other provinces where he dug up the soil for construction purposes. But during the course of his business he used excavators to dig for gold that might be in the ground.
Source: Vientiane Times