Government greenlights potash mine

Government greenlights potash mine

A file photo shows an activist in Udon Thani province during a rally against potash exploration.
A file photo shows an activist in Udon Thani province during a rally against potash exploration.

The cabinet on Tuesday gave the Asia Pacific Potash Corporation (APPC), a wholly owned subsidiary of Italian-Thai Development Plc, permission to embark on a 36-billion-baht potash mining project in Udon Thani.

According to Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit, the government expects the project to help Thailand save money from importing potash, which is a significant raw material for fertiliser production, and address the ongoing fertiliser price spike.

"APPC plans to produce two million tonnes of potash a year within six months to a year. This can help tackle soaring fertiliser prices in the event that the ongoing conflicts in Europe last for a long time," said Mr Suriya.

According to the minister, the company can now submit its mining project to the Board of Investment (BoI) to ask for incentives.

Rachada Dhnadirek, a deputy government spokeswoman, said APPC has already honoured all requirements, including an environmental impact assessment and public hearings with people living around the mining project.

The next step will see the Industry Ministry's Department of Primary Industries and Mines consider issuing the concession.

According to Ms Rachada, the company reported to the Industry Ministry that it has reached an understanding with 2,000 villagers after several years of talks, with only 100 disagreeing.

The company also reported a strategic environmental assessment, with 63% of direct stakeholders approving the mining development in certain areas on the condition that the company comes up with measures to reduce the impact on the environment and communities, and sets aside part of the royalties to develop communities and compensate affected people at appropriate rates.

According to Ms Rachada, the mining project will be operated on a combined 28,127 rai of land plots in the two districts of Udon Thani- Muang Udon Thani and Prachaksinlapakhom, 26,446 rai of which are underground, with 1,681 rai above ground.

Once the mining project starts, it is expected to produce two million tonnes of potash a year, which can reduce potash imports used for fertiliser production, she said.

Thailand currently imports 800,000 tonnes of potash a year, worth 7.6-10 billion baht.

In a related development, the cabinet on Tuesday approved in principle the action plan for infrastructure projects in the Eastern Economic Corridor between 2023-2027, covering 77 projects worth 337.79 billion baht.

Significant projects include a high-speed rail line linking Chon Buri province's Ban Bung district with Rayong's Ban Khai district, an additional taxiway at U-tapao airport, and a new double-track rail line from Sri Racha to Rayong.

The cabinet also approved the establishment of a fund to help production and service sectors which have been affected by free-trade agreements, with a total budget of five billion baht over three years.

In addition, the cabinet agreed to maintain the price control list for 51 items, comprising 46 products and five services.

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