BAU district police chief DSP Poge Nyaon today confirmed that foreigners were involved in illegal gold mining activities at Gunung Tabai cave, at Jalan Taiton in the district.
He said that in November last year, a total of 34 Indonesians were detained in the Bau district, which is located near the Malaysia-Indonesia border, and police investigations found that they were involved in illegal mining activities on the foothills of the mountain.
“They were detained by police and it was found that some of them tested positive for COVID-19, causing some policemen who detained them to become infected,” he told Bernama when met at the location of the latest illegal mining tunnel tragedy.
According to him, the case was reported to the Immigration Department and Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC), with all foreigners involved to be deported to their countries of origin.
He said that two meetings at the Resident’s office were held to discuss the issue of encroachment and illegal gold mining in the prohibited areas.
In the latest incident, at 4.30 pm yesterday, a 25-year-old man known as Martin Mat Tapa, from Kampung Bijure here, died under the rubble of a collapsed tunnel inside the Mount Tabai cave.
Operations to retrieve his body, which was trapped under the rubble, are still underway.
The man, along with two survivors, was believed to have gone to Gunung Tabai yesterday to mine gold in a cave at the foothills of the mountain.
In the meantime, Poge advised the local community not to encroach on Mount Tabai, which is part of the National Park area.
He also said that the SFC will install warning signs and controls around the area with the help of the police.
Intruders can be prosecuted under the Sarawak Forestry Corporation Ordinance.
In 2011, a 19-year-old youth died while another 37-year-old man was seriously injured, after being hit by rocks when a narrow tunnel they had dug while searching for gold collapsed.
A year later, in 2012, a miner died in the cave due to the collapse of a tunnel, and his family allowed the body of the man in his 30s, to remain buried under the rubble due to difficulties in removing it safely by the rescue team. – Bernama