Budget funds requested for Akara case
The Industry Ministry says Thailand needs a budget to finance its legal fight with an Australian gold mining company after a House committee vetting the budget bill in fiscal 2021 slashed its 111-million-baht request.
The panel on Monday voted 38 to 21 in favour of cutting the budget by 12 million baht from the total for legal expenses incurred from arbitration initiated by Kingsgate Consolidated.
The budget requests have been made every year since the military-led government decided to suspend operations at the Chatree gold mine in Phichit four years ago. The suspension followed complaints against the miner over its impact on the environment.
"We've been calling on the government to provide a budget for this case," said Wisanu Tabtieng, chief of the Department of Primary Industry and Mines. "We asked for 60 million baht in fiscal 2019 and 217 million baht in fiscal 2020."
The money is needed because "the legal process incurs costs", Mr Wisanu said.
Kingsgate is the parent company of Akara Resources, the concessionaire of gold mining operations in Thailand under the Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement.
The now-defunct National Council for Peace and Order, led by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, invoked Section 44 of the interim charter to suspend mining at the site on Dec 31, 2016 after villagers complained that wastewater discharged from the mine had poisoned the environment amd harmed their health.
Kingsgate said the order violated the trade agreement.
The Industry Ministry has tried to negotiate with Akara to resolve the disagreement, but the miner has begun the arbitration process against Thailand and is seeking 30 billion baht in compensation.
Four options were suggested in the negotiation, Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit said earlier.
The options are: the government pays compensation to Akara for its mine shutdown; the government allows the company to resume operations under the 2017 Minerals Act; Akara complies with the ruling from the arbitration panel; or the government pays part of the compensation and allow the company to continue mining.