Friday, 28 August 2009

Bhutan : Gold in Bhutan?

27 August, 2009 - The department of geology and mines (DGM) has come across a rock sample with traces of gold in it in an area between Phuentsholing and Pasakha.

The department has around a hundred more samples and will be conducting further tests to find out the economic potential or viability of the deposit.

This is part of the DGM’s search for potential gold mines in Bhutan, which has received a big boost with this finding and, though no big deposits are confirmed, some promising clues have been found.

“The particular rock sample was tested in a laboratory of the United States geological services (USGS) and they have found 0.134 parts per million trace of gold, which is above average,” said the chief geologist and acting director of DGM, Ugyen Wangda.

In fact, the letter from American geologist Klaus J Schulz in 2008 says, “ 0.134 ppm gold is at the high end of the range found…and may warrant further examination of the sample area.” He also says that such iron-rich rocks can be a good host for gold lode deposits.

A Netherlands professor and minerals exploration expert, Westhoff, after visiting and studying the rock formation in southern Bhutan, had said in 2006 to DGM that there was a good potential for the presence of gold there.

DGM has also received information on the likelihood of gold being found in the region from a foreign mining expert. Simon, a United Nations educational, scientific and cultural organisation (UNESCO) staff and former USGS geologist, had recommended to DGM to send the rock samples to the USGS lab.

Though not made public, the first ever clues provided to DGM on the likelihood of gold was by Jang Pangi of the geological survey of India (GSI) that was exploring mineral content in Bhutan until the early 1990s. “He said that traces of gold could be seen in the Siwalik rock formation and its source must be the older Buxa rock formation above it,” said Ugyen Wangda. “Commonly the chances of gold and minerals being found is in the Buxa rock formation, which is around 10-15 km in thickness, and runs for around 200 km from west to east in the south.”

However, the key point will be finding gold in economically viable amounts or which can be extracted in an economically viable manner. Normally, the gold value in most rocks is 0.02 and anything above it is sign of gold, but one has to find gold deposits above 4.0 ppm to be economically viable.

The gold ore or rocks are normally crushed to powder and then melted at high temperature. Since gold is a heavy metal, it settles at the bottom.

DGM for now is pinning its hopes on the Phuentsholing- Pasakha area and also other areas near Gurung Khola in Sarpang and the Black Mountain area in Trongsa.

“We’ll look at these areas first, as they are potential sites, but there’ll also be other areas we will follow up later on,” he said. The chief geologist said that the key would be to finding the source or ‘provence’ of gold along the Buxa rock formation stretch.

DGM currently has a budget of Nu 800,000 for exploration of heavy metals like gold, but expects more resources with the mineral development policy, which is in the final stages of being sent to the cabinet for approval. “The policy will encourage the exploring of such resources in more detail,” said the chief geologist.

He said that, though GSI had in the past done some surveys, it covered only 33 percent of Bhutan, which was accessible.

DGM, however, faces a challenge with the lack of adequate equipment and trained manpower. The machine used to test for gold, the atomic absorption spectrometer, was defective for the last few years and only recently was a new one purchased to carry out tests.

By Tenzing Lamsang

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Bhutan : Swine flu tests on upward spiral

17 August, 2009 - The number of people getting themselves tested for influenza A H1N1 (swine flu) has increased to an average of 35 a day from 10 a month in mid July, say public health laboratory officials.

“Since the first confirmed cases in Bhutan were detected on July 20, a lot more people are getting themselves tested,” said the head of public health laboratory, Sonam Wangchuk. Since then, six Bhutanese have tested positive, two outside the country.

All of them have recovered.

Eleven locations, including two regional hospitals and the border areas, are equipped with rapid testing kits for influenza like illness. The samples collected are sent to Bangkok, Thailand, for confirmation, depending on Drukair’s schedules. While testing is free, sending a sample for confirmation costs about Nu 3,000.

“We have collected around 800 samples since the start of surveillance from September last year,” said a technician at the public health laboratory, Dorji Tshering. “Every week, around 100 samples are sent for confirmation.”

The medical superintendent of Thimphu referral hospital, Dr Pandup Tshering, said that confirmation takes about 24 hours. “But our main problem is sending the samples from here. We don’t send on weekends and at times there are no flights,” he said.

Depending on their health condition, patients waiting for confirmation, are given antibiotics or Tami flu, the medicine for H1N1.

“We don’t wait for lab results,” Sonam Wangchuk. “Pregnant mothers, children below five and those above 65 years are straightaway given Tami flu.”

Sonam Wangchuk feels that the flu virus must have already reached Bhutan by the first week of June, although the first samples were confirmed only in July.

The flu is not fatal unless one’s immunity is weak, say officials. But health officials stress on personal hygiene, like frequent hand washing.

For a developing country like Bhutan, which doesn’t have expensive testing equipment in place, personal hygiene is the best form of prevention.

“To prevent influenza virus spread, cleaning hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub is imperative both at community level and in health-care settings. The simple act of hand hygiene will contribute to reducing spread of infection,” according to the world health organization (WHO). As of August 6, WHO reported 177,457 cases, with 1,462 deaths in 170 countries.

In terms of awareness, Dr Pandup feels that the public health department is doing enough and doing more would only cause panic. “It’s nothing serious. Observe hygiene and see a doctor if you catch flu.”

Meanwhile, investigations to trace the source of virus in the first two confirmed cases have been dropped because no link could be found, said Sonam Wangchuk.

As for the 65-year-old man, one of the second two positive cases, it has been confirmed that he had acquired the flu from a relative, who had travelled outside the country. The whereabouts of the other positive case, a 30-year-old man, is not known because the hospital forgot to note his contact address.

By Sonam Pelden

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Bhutan : Luck, not merit, gets job

Punatsangchu Hydroproject I10 August, 2009 - When Punatsangchu hydroproject I was finalised, the job prospects it offered came to the rescue of many unemployed vocational graduates from institutes around the country.

For Sonam Dema (name changed on request), it was a motivation to work harder and top the class so that she would be preferred when looking for a job. Sonam came fifth in her class and was confident that she would get the first job offer. On August 4, standing in a hallway of the labour ministry office in Thimphu, Sonam was ruing her fate.

She was not among the 10 “lucky” graduates selected.

The employment department had announced 10 vacancies for plumber to work for the Punatsangchu project, but the selection was done on a “lucky dip” system. Three construction training centre (CTC) graduates were selected along with seven VTI graduates.

There were 11 VTI candidates, who competed for the seven slots. “Four of us had picked up the wrong piece of paper. We were among the best students at the institute,” said another Sonam, 23, who graduated In July. “We had 16 students in our class and I stood 5th but that didn’t make a difference because I wasn’t lucky.”

VTI candidates told Kuensel that it took about 10 minutes for officials to choose the best suitable candidate for the job. The employment officer had asked us whether the selection process should be merit and interview-based or through lucky dip, said a graduate.

“A majority of the candidates, including those from CTC, voted for a lucky dip,” said a 24-year-old VTI graduate. “The selection process wasn’t only unpleasant but very unfair.”

“There were rolled paper with ‘Yes’ written on some. But I picked up a blank paper,” he said. “We’d worked extremely hard at the training centre to have a better chance in getting employed, but the officials didn’t even go through our mark sheets.”

Candidates, who never made the cut, said that they have never seen any organisation recruit people on a “lucky dip” basis. “We were the unlucky lot, who’d actually performed better than most at the training institute,” said one of them. “We had a lot of expectations.”

Employment officials could not be contacted for comment.

Meanwhile, the selected candidates will soon be leaving for Punakha to work at the Punatsangchu site. Singye, 23, said that the ‘lucky dip’ selection was fair. “I was lucky. We didn’t have to go through any process of interview,” he said.

Last year, there were about 1,500 VTI graduates in the market, most of who struggled to find employment. The unemployed VTI graduates said that they are exploring other options. “I hope I pick the right piece of paper next time,” said a girl, who was trained in plumbing.

By Phuntsho Choden

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Bhutan : His Majesty commends good work

His Majesty the King graced the closing ceremony of the third session of parliament yesterday. Addressing the members of parliament, His Majesty congratulated Druk Phuensum Tshokpa government on the completion of one year and four months in office. “In these early days of a new political system while bearing great responsibilities you have, despite the limited resources, successfully carried out the difficult duties of government in service of the Tsawasum, His Majesty said. His Majesty said that the opposition, though comprised of only two members, had through diligence and commitment, fulfilled the important duties of the opposition party as enshrined in the constitution.

His Majesty also expressed gratitude and appreciation to the government and the members of parliament.I must express my deep gratitude and appreciation to the His Majesty commends good workgovernment and the members of parliament. It is with complete trust and faith that I look upon you to serve the people and country. In doing so, you have my wholehearted support,His Majesty said.We must also acknowledge that in preparation for democracy we had entrusted immense responsibilities on our civil servants and judiciary as well as on constitutional bodies such as the Royal Audit Authority, Anti-corruption Commission and Election Commission, which they have fulfilled in the service of the nation. Henceforth, for a vibrant and successful democracy, we must continue to support and strengthen these institutions.

His Majesty emphasised the role of media in bringing about a vibrant democracy.Media “ newspapers, television, radio and the internet“ must play a very important role. I appreciate that while some of the media agencies are young and lack adequate resources they have strived to perform their duties with Phuentsholingcomplete commitment. Speaking about his visits to the villages, His Majesty expressed his contentment in being a part of the ordinary people’s lives. “It is when I sit in the houses of my people, eat our meals together and discuss the lives and aspirations of each family, that I am most content. And while I am there I try, in small ways, to help them with their most pressing problems.Addressing the parliament, Opposition Leader said, alHis Majesty commends good workthough the complete parliament proceedings were not broadcast live, because of the good work done by the media, most people were aware of the parliament proceedings. The Speaker said some of the most critical issues that needed to be emphasized were eradicating poverty and providing employment to the youth. He said that the government should wholeheartedly support His Majesty granting kidus.

Prime Minister in his vote of thanks expressed his grievance over the recent death of the seven children. He said that he was thankful to His Majesty for sending his condolences and kudu to the bereaved families through Her Royal Highness Dechen Yangzom Wangchuck. National Council Chairperson expressed his gratitude to His Majesty for congratulating the parliamentarians and Druk Phuensum Tshogpa government magnanimously.

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