Wissanu: Kingsgate can resume gold mining if it complies with new mining law

Wissanu: Kingsgate can resume gold mining if it complies with new mining law

Members of a civic group hold up official documents to show they are residents of Phichit affected by gold mining in the province, on Jan 22, 2018. (Bangkok Post file photo)
Members of a civic group hold up official documents to show they are residents of Phichit affected by gold mining in the province, on Jan 22, 2018. (Bangkok Post file photo)

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam says Kingsgate Consolidated Ltd can resume gold mining operations if it strictly complies with four conditions under the new mining legislation.

Mr Wissanu, a legal specialist, made his remarks after media reported the Australian mining company said it has now received from the Thai government four outstanding mining leases (MLs) required to operate the Chatree Gold Mine.

Located in Phichit and operated by Akara Resources Plc, a sister company of Kingsgate, the gold mine was closed by a court order when villagers complained about environmental and health impacts.

The order came after the now-defunct National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) invoked Section 44 of the interim charter to suspend mining at the site on Jan 1, 2017.

The order later triggered an international legal battle between Kingsgate and the Thai government when the company brought the case to the Court of International Arbitration.

Earlier, Kingsgate had announced that both litigants had jointly requested the arbitral tribunal to further hold its verdict until Jan 31, as they were currently negotiating an agreement to settle the lawsuit.

Asked if the current international arbitration lawsuit would be terminated since Kingsgate would now be able to resume its gold mining in Thailand, Mr Wissanu said he was not certain.

If the company complies with the new mining law's four core requirements -- concerning protection of the environment, land, local residents and communities -- there should not be any problem, he said.

“Previously, the government and the NCPO did not confiscate it (the mining site), but only asked the operator to suspend its operation," said Mr Wissanu. "The concession was not renewed, meaning that the mining operations had to halt that year.

"Right now, the new mining law has yet to take effect. When the new legislation is in force, the mining firm can seek permission to resume its business. However, whether it is following the proper procedures or not, I don't know. This rests with the agency that supervises it. Those concerned must make inspections and issue a report."

As for the ruling on the previous dispute, due to be handed down on Jan 31, the deputy prime minister said he was not sure if it would actually take place or be postponed once again.

Earlier, a civic society group threatened to file legal action against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha if the government loses the legal battle against Kingsgate and agrees to the company's terms of reopening its mine.

The Network of People Who Own Mineral Resources issued a statement on Nov 8 last year strongly opposing the government's plan to settle the legal dispute between the Thai government and Kingsgate Consolidated, allowing the company to resume its gold mining operations in Thailand.

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