Suriya to attend Chatree gold mine talks

Suriya to attend Chatree gold mine talks

The Chatree gold mine operated by Akara Resources in Phichit province was closed by the military-led government on Dec 31, 2016. (Photo: Sitthipoj Kebui)
The Chatree gold mine operated by Akara Resources in Phichit province was closed by the military-led government on Dec 31, 2016. (Photo: Sitthipoj Kebui)

The government is confident international negotiations to resolve a dispute over the Chatree gold mine will be fruitful, Industry Minister Suriya Juangroongruangkit said on Thursday, as he denied reports of a budget hike for the government's battle in the case.

Mr Suriya will leave for Australia on Friday for a new round of talks with Kingsgate Consolidated, the parent company of Akara Resources Plc, operator of the suspended gold mine, which sits along the borders of three provinces -- Phichit, Phitsanulok and Phetchabun.

The mine was ordered closed in 2017 via an executive decree issued by the now-dissolved National Council for Peace and Order after villagers raised complaints over health and environmental impacts. "The negotiation appears to be heading in the right direction," Mr Suriya said.

He said Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam advised him to focus on resolving the Chatree mine dispute through dialogue. A dispute over the mine's closure led to an international arbitration case between Kingsgate Consolidated and the government over losses the former 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. The ruling has been postponed to allocate more time so both sides can settle the dispute via negotiations.

Mr Suriya yesterday dismissed reports that the cabinet approved additional funding for the legal battle, saying additional time was given to settle the conflict through talks.

The time-frame needed to be expanded, but no additional budget has been approved to fund the battle, despite claims by some media outlets, he said.

"The time-frame was extended until next year from the previous 2017–2021 [time-frame]," he said. "However, the budget approved for it remains the same."

Acting PM Prawit Wongsuwon on Wednesday said the budget increase to 796.67 million baht, from 731.13 million baht, only covers work under the 2017–2021 time-frame.


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