The permanent secretary for industry has confirmed the findings of toxic leaks from the tailing storage facility at Akara Resources Plc's gold mine in Phichit.
A study has found abnormal electrical resistance at the facility, known as TSF1, which indicated possible leaks. Geochemical anomalies were also detected, said Pasu Loharjun, permanent secretary for industry who chairs a committee looking into the case.
The study also discovered signs of leakages from the facility into an observation well and nearby rice fields, Mr Pasu said. Heavy metal contamination levels in surface water and in one observation well were also found to be higher than accepted standards after the gold mining operations were halted last year, Mr Pasu said. According to technical information on the tailing storage facility, water in the storage facility can infiltrate into the soil after one year of use, he said.
The committee was set up a few years ago to probe villagers' complaints that Akara's gold mining operation in Phichit had caused polluted water to soak into paddy fields near its gold mining site, turning the natural water supply toxic. The committee set up a sub-panel including a research team from Nareasuan University to conduct the study.
Early last month, the Industry Ministry denied social media posts claiming Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha ordered the ministry to spend 30 billion baht compensating the Australia-based gold mining firm whose operations at the site were suspended under a regime order last year.
Kingsgate Consolidated Ltd, the parent company of Akara Resources Plc which operated the Chatree gold mine in Phichit, has entered the arbitration process against Thailand under the Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. The company said the government's order was unlawful and caused substantial damages.
It has insisted its operations have not damaged the environment or residents' health.