'Nothing amiss' about Akara mine licence

'Nothing amiss' about Akara mine licence

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Friday defended the government's decision to extend Akara Resources Plc's licences for gold and silver mining for another 10 years, insisting it is in line with the law.

The company operated the Chatree gold mine, which sits on the borders of three provinces -- Phichit, Phitsanulok and Phetchabun.

The mine was ordered closed in 2017 by an executive decree of the now-dissolved National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) following villagers' complaints about health and environmental impacts.

Under the terms of reopening, the gold mining company will be allowed to resume mining if it can comply with stricter requirements under the amended Minerals Act 2017. The requirements cover four issues: the environment, land management, land-use permission and community health.

The earlier dispute had led to an international arbitration lawsuit between the company's parent, Australia's Kingsgate Consolidated, and the government over losses it claimed to have suffered as a result of the suspension. Thailand may ultimately be forced to pay more than 25 billion baht in compensation if it loses.

Cherdsak Attha-arun, the company's general manager for coordinating on external affairs, previously said its licences for gold and silver mining at four locations have now been extended for another 10 years, effective from Dec 30 2021.

Responding to a question from the opposition during the general debate in parliament yesterday, Gen Prayut said after the amended Minerals Act 2017 was enacted, more than 100 companies applied for new licences or sought extensions, including Akara.

Any private companies that comply with the law can apply for such licences so nothing was amiss, he said.

Even though the legal dispute between Kingsgate and the government is pending a ruling by an international arbitration body, this does not restrict the company's right to apply for an extension of its licences, Gen Prayut said, adding the company followed the same application procedures as other firms.

That is why it was granted an extension of its licences, Gen Prayut said.

He dismissed as baseless an allegation that the licence extension was granted in exchange for encouraging Kingsgate Consolidated to drop its case against the country.

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