People flock to rivers in Maruthamala to filter fine gold particles
Edakkara (Malappuram): When the COVID crisis affected the livelihood of people, many of them search for gold in the rivers. Several people arrive at rivers of Maruthappuzha, Koottilparappuzha, Mannicheenippuzha, Punnappuzha and Chaliyar to look for fine particles of gold washed away from the Maruthamalai Hills during monsoon. They manage to collect gold worth upto Rs 500-1000 per day.
The gold hunters use a wooden equipment locally called 'Maravi'. This costs about Rs 10,000. 'Maravi' has a small pit in the middle which helps to filter fine particles of gold from the water. People go to the depth of the river and carry sand in the 'Maravi'.
This is filtered later to collect the black residue which contains gold. The residue is added with mercury and burnt in the flame of a lamp. Then the particles of gold forms a block. There are carpenters who make 'Maravi' for gold hunters.
Gold from Maruthamala
Gold is found in the hills in Sanakaranmala and Kolamaratti which are close to Marutha. Gold can be found in the form of pieces and particles on the top soil. Hundreds of people used to come on the hills hunting for gold between the period 1970 and 1990.
However, about 10 people have lost their lives during the process of finding gold. Accidents occur as they dig deep canals to flow the river water to filter gold from it. The sides of the canals collapse resulting in death of people.
Gold expedition of Centre
After knowing about the presence of gold in the hills, the central government started gold expedition in 1979. Gold digging started in two wells made of machines. Later, the attempt was stopped finding it unprofitable. The government also banned gold digging by individuals in the hills.
People remembered about the gold in Maruthamala after they lost jobs during the COVID crisis. They arranged 'Maravi' for cheap rate and come to the river. Some of them also bring women to help with the filtering process. Many are experienced in gold filtering.