Possible new Hong Kong Mines – 1970s
Tymon Mellor: In the late 1960’s the HK Government commissioned a comprehensive geological survey of Hong Kong, to establish and document the territories geology. The Geological Survey of Hong Kong, was undertaken between 1967-1969, and published in 1971. The report was prepared by the Overseas Division of the Institute of Geological Science, working for the Ministry of Overseas Development (London) and the HK Government. In addition to the published document, a study was also undertaken to identify possible mining locations for mineral extraction within the territory. Six areas were identified prompting a confidential review to be undertaken to see if follow-up works should be undertaken.
The geological team analysed trace elements within the stream sediments to look for signs of mineralisation. From this assessment they identified the six main areas of interest. It was recommended that a detailed geochemical prospecting and geological survey be undertaken to establish the nature and extent of the mineralisation. The Commissioner of Mines, sought views from the District Commissioners, the directors and chief engineers of the affected departments and the director of Agriculture and Fisheries. The Commissioner noted that making land available for commercial prospecting and mining was highly unlikely, given the difficulties encountered with previous applications.
The six areas were:
- Lam Tsuen area – where previous prospecting had identified lead minerals, but resistance from villagers blocked the development of a mine;
- Tai Po / Fan Ling area – the plains and valley either side of the Sha Tau Kok Road, prospecting had previously been undertaken and the Lin Ma Hang lead mine was located to the north. A 1905 Government report noted; “There is a persistent report that gold exists in the hills on the east of the road from Tai Po to Fan Ling about where the Lung Yeuk Tau Road branches off”, no find has ever been reported;
- Shap Sze Heung area – the area had already been affected by the mine on Ma On Shan and borrow areas for the Plover Cove Scheme, strong opposition from villages was anticipated;
- Ngau Tam Mei area – prospecting licences had been issued for the area but nothing of value had been identified;
- Sha Tin area – the 1905 Government report identified; “Silver and lead exist, and there have been mines, above Fo Tan in Tide Cove, and at the Un-iu Gap at Tai Po [Lead Mine Pass]. The last were shut down about twenty five years ago [around 1880], not because they were not paying, but owing to about 48 men being killed by the roof falling in.”. It was noted in the 1970 reports that the WSD water tunnels ran through the area and this may preclude mining operations;
- Ngau Chi Wan area – the foot hills of Kowloon Peak, the nearest records of prospecting were on Devils Peak where mineral veins were discovered and horizontal trial adits excavated to extract the wolframite and beryl minerals, no commercial mining operation were recorded.
The Director of the Agriculture and Fisheries noted that mining operations could affect farming by causing damage to crops and livestock, give rise to silting, erosion and interrupt the water supply. No one seemed to worry about the environmental impact! The Director also provided details of the importance of the areas in terms of land use and production; the latter being of the order of HK$67.3 million (1971 values) per year.
The District Officer of Tai Po, Mr H S Grewal summarised the situation in his 26th January, 1971 memo; “In my view the crux of the matter is that for the size of this Colony with its already dense population and the implications that entails, we cannot really afford to have any more despoliation from mining operations however attractive economically they might be.”
Within five years, all mining operations had ceased in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Public Records Office
Government report of 1905 regarding the alignment of the proposed KCRC railway, Enclosure B
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