Nga Ying Kok – Potential Iron Ore Mine, Lantau Island

Tymon Mellor: The existing public camp site at Nga Ying Kok is located next to the Tai O coastal path on a series of small platforms cut into the hillside. The site is surrounded by trees and bush with an exposed water main running across the site. This quiet little backwater of Lantau in 1959 was to be the site of a new iron ore mine, employing 50 miners and producing 3,000 tons of ore a month for sale to the Japanese market. The mining operation was clearly not successful but the old industrial site now makes a great campsite.

Site Location

Mine Hunting

Hints of a possible mine near Tai O was first raised by a photo from an old book, entitled <朱翁同遊 香港原貌>. This identified a mining establishment on Lantau, the image showing a temporary pier, mining accommodation, offices, a chimney and an exposed water main.

Mine Facilities

The inclusion of the water main narrowed down the possible locations on Lantau to between Shui Lo Cho and Tai O. Checking the records in the Public Records Office, a request for a prospecting licence was made in November 1957 and this was issued under PL/58 on the 11 June 1958 for an area of approximately 49 acres[i]. The prospecting licence was renewed up to 1960 but no mining licence seems to have been issued. The licencee was a Mr Wong Yu Tso of the Hong Kong Mining Products Co and they were looking for iron and manganese minerals.

Prospecting Licence

Prospecting and mine development is an expensive and high-risk operation, requiring a high initial capital outlay with no assurance of success. With a licence in place, the company first had to establish facilities for the workers, secure the necessary skills to locate and extract the mineral ores and maintain the operations. There was no road access to the site and all the resources had to be supplied by marine transport.

To fund the development of a mining operation, it was common practice to seek backers to provide the financial support. These people liked to see positive stories about their investment and both the South China Morning Post[ii] and Overseas Chinese Daily News[iii] (OCDN)carried upbeat stories about the development opportunities of the site.

News Articles

The article in the OCDN included a very positive statement, “An employee of mine told a reporter that this is surface mining, producing iron ore. Due to plentiful reserves, the employee makes no bones about surface mining that even lasts for 30 years.”

A search on the HKU image library threw up a second photograph of the mining operation and provided a clear overview of the site.

Facility Location

The Site

The only access to the mine site is by a pleasant 2.5km walk from Tai O along the coastal path to the camp site. The area is now heavily vegetated but elements of the original photo are still visible; the pipeline, the ridgeline and remains of the rock pier. However, the location of the mining operations had still to be identified.

The Site

Based on the 1963 aerial photos, a number of areas of interest were identified on the adjacent hillside, 80m up the slope from the footpath. An initial attempt to find a route up the hillside was rebuffed by dense vegetation. Fortunately, there is a path on an adjacent hillside and a small path below CLP power lines that traverses above the possible mining sites.

Through a suitable break in the bush, it was possible to descend down the hillside to the site of the possible workings A series of benches had been excavated across the hillside to expose the rock, and drill holes were visible where explosives had been used to blast the ground. The loose rock had then been stacked adjacent to the workings, possibly for later collection.

Nga Ying Kok Prospecting

A sample of the exposed rock had a density of 3.8 g/cm3, significantly higher than the local granite at 2.7 g/cm3 and 2.6 g/cm3 for the native tuff indicating it contained some additional minerals. The sample does not seem to be magnetic but there are signs of rusting.

It would seem the miners identified a rich mineral ore but it was clearly not commercially attractive to seek a mining licence and establish a mining operation. The OCDN article concluded with the statement, “Nowadays there are mines at Sha Lo Wan 沙螺灣 (tungsten), Mong Tung Wan 望東灣 (iron), and northeast of Kap Shui Mun 汲水門 (tungsten)”. Looks like I have a few more mines to locate.



[i] HKRS 896-1-7 Mining and Prospecting

[ii] Company to Mine Iron Ore on Lantuo Is, South China Morning Post, 28 Jul 1959

[iii] Overseas Chinese Daily News, 31 Mar 1959

This article was first posted on 24th February 2022.

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  8. Ma On Shan Iron Mine – underground film, 2014

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