Gold miners end up in nameless tombs away from home

Many nameless tombs in the central region’s Quang Nam Province are the only markers for gold miners who died prospecting far away from their homes.

Sau, a local xe om driver, said the gold miners had died without their families around, so he and residents of Kham Duc Town, Phuoc Son District, have buried the gold miners at the end of an old runway used during Vietnam War.

It’s hard to locate the graveyard, which is only a collection of about 20 dunes. The latest one was in April, a man more than 40 years old who was also a drug addict and HIV carrier.

Meanwhile, many miners have been buried by their bosses inside the forest next to their gold mines, making it hard for the family to track them later.

Most of these people worked for illegal gold mines.

“There are countless unnamed tombs. Gradually, they will all be concealed by the forest,” Sau said, sighing.

A lot of people died of malaria in the area between 1985 and 1999, most of them gold miners from provinces up north like Nghe An and Thanh Hoa, he said.

There’re also people who died of drug addiction, mine collapse or typhoid.

Sau said some tombs have been moved back home by the dead person’s family but most stayed where they were.

Doctor Huynh Tan Dung, director of Kham Duc Hospital, said he and his staff had also spent their own money buying coffins or mats to bury gold miners who succumbed to their sickness or injuries.

Dung said he had received so many sick gold miners that he cannot remember how many.

“Most of them were sent in without a name, age, hometown or relatives… We could only write briefly in the medical files that they’re dead,” Dung said.

There’re nights the gold miners carried a person to the emergency room and left immediately, because they didn’t want to have anything to do with the case, the doctor recalled.

“Some cases were luckily saved, but many died.”

Tran Thi Xuan, a doctor at the hospital, said she’s now used to receiving patients unaccompained by relatives.

“Many days, I’ve had to bring food and clothes to the patients. I am poor but how could I see people dying and not help?”

Around eight years ago, Xuan took care of a gold miner named Thanh, then 17, who insisted on not revealing his hometown and the names of his parents.

“I left home coming here with a hope to change my life, to earn money to help my poor family, to pay the school fees for my brothers and sisters. I didn’t expect to lose everything. My parents back home would die of pain on knowing I’m like this,” Thanh told Xuan two days before he died.

“Since then, no one has asked for Thanh. Maybe his family thought that he has become a successful man somewhere or has been too busy making money to come home,” Xuan said.

Le Thi Mai, a doctor who has been nearly 30 years with the hospital, said she had cleaned up a lot of dead bodies of the gold miners.

“Some people had ulcers all over their bodies. Some could no longer control their bladder before dying. Some didn’t have a complete body after a mines collapse. But I cleaned them all, gave them a hair wash before they were buried,” Mai said.

The latest person she cleaned up in April also tried to hide his personal information.

“He might not want his wife, children and parents to feel sorrow. So I didn’t try to ask him,” said the doctor whose husband also died as a gold miner 15 years ago.



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