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Treasure Hunters In China Cause Havoc Over Worthless Rocks

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HANGZHOU/ BEIJING: Thousands of people have turned a small village in eastern China upside down in a search for what they believe are precious red rubies, which turned out to be worthless rocks.

Thousands of people have turned a small village in Zhejiang province, eastern China, upside down in a search for what they believe are precious red rubies. However, a senior official said that the so-called rubies are worthless rocks.

In recent days, many visitors carrying pickaxes, shovels and flashlights have flocked into Houzhang village in Pan’an county, about a three-hour drive from Hangzhou, Zhejiang’s capital.

Qianjiang Evening News, a local newspaper, reported that the treasure-hunting fever was triggered by rumours circulating on WeChat. Some claimed rubies were dug from the village and a small one could bring 50,000 yuan (RM30,782) or even 250,000 yuan (RM153,913).

Shi Zhao’an, deputy director of the Land and Resources Bureau of Pan’an county, said the rocks were tested and found to be siliceous rocks and not worth much money.

“Many heard the same conclusion from experts after they sent rocks for testing. However, the rumour has moved so fast that people are still coming to the village,” Shi said.

According to Qianjiang Evening News, the treasure hunters are not just from local villages, and they are digging at night because they believe it is easier to find rubies then. Children and the elderly have joined the search.

Pan Xihao, a 47-year-old from Wushi village, Pan’an county, told Qianjiang Evening News that he came on Monday morning but in three hours had only found two small rocks.

“It is too exhausting,” Pan said. “There are rocks, but they are too small. I gave up. But I sold my pickax to another visitor for 20 yuan before I left.”

Since Sunday morning, local police have been sent out to keep order. Villagers also shut the only road to the village. But people are still finding their way in.

Pan Yuwen, a 57-year-old accountant from Houzhang, said that residents heard similar rumours when they were children.“About 40 years ago, a geological prospecting team from the province came to our village. The team came here twice and stayed about two months,” Pan said.

Shi of the Land and Resources Bureau of Pan’an county said there are still 500 people digging in the village.

“Some have treated this as a trip, and kill time by digging for rubies with their friends,” Shi said. “However, constant digging will destroy the village’s ecosystem and disturb resident’s lives. Many village officials are wasting their time by being force keep order.” China Daily/Asia News Network

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