It was a nice warm and sunny Sunday morning in December and my friend Chris and I decided to take a ride to Yunnan´s largest gold mine near the village of Beiya (北衙) in the northwest of Yunnan. Beiya is located roughly between Lijiang (丽江) and Dali Old Town (大理古城) and a few kilometers east on the old country side road S221. The S221 is nowadays less frequently used since the new highway, connecting Dali with Lijiang, was opened in December 2014. Before the S221 served as the main link between the two destinations. All restaurants were closed at the time of visit since only a few public buses pass by here, mainly frequented by villagers who live in the vicinity. The villages clearly saw better times, but riding on the curvy mountain roads with only a few vehicles passing by makes a much better ride.
Beiya gold mine is an opencast pit and has proven reserves of more than 150 tons of gold. Check out this GoKunming article if you like to read more about the social and ecological implications of gold mining at this particular mine.
Be prepared for a lot of mud (even in the dry season) if you enter the area. Here, our brand new (and not yet registered) Shinery X5 400 came in handy, due to their high suspension, large wheels and off-road capability. The unpaved dirt road continued for only a few kilometers until we reached the pit. Make sure you take the right turn-off from Beiya since there are several roads leading in and out of the village. From the village to the gold mine its only a few kilometers. From Beiya we took a small minor road in eastern direction towards Binchuan (宾川) and from there back to Dali. Keep in mind that there is no way leading through the pit, you have to return the same way you came in. Roads beyond Beiya and the mine were in surprisingly good condition (mainly paved) leading through golden fields of corn and small villages, inhabited by Bai minority people. We encountered almost no traffic (aside from the cows).