6 found guilty of colluding over EIA
A former senior state official and five other parties were found guilty of colluding to help a gold mining company avoid a mandatory environmental impact assessment (EIA) of its second tailings pond, the national anti-graft body said yesterday.
The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) said it believes Somkiat Phuthongchaiyarit, a former director-general of the Department of Primary Industries and Mines, and five others had a hand in the unlawful approval of a request by Akara Mining Co or Akara Resources Plc, to expand its second tailings pond and shift it to a new location without having to conduct an EIA, NACC secretary-general Worawit Sukboon said.
Mr Somkiat, along with state officials Sattjawut Nakniyom, Chat Hongthiamchan and Khanthasak Khaengraeng, were found guilty of dereliction of duty and serious disciplinary misconduct in connection with the EIA dodging case, Mr Worawit said.
However, the NACC found insufficient evidence to find the fifth suspect, Khamphu Khunarak, guilty.
Akara Mining Co and Pakon Sukhum, a former managing director of Akara Mining Co, the sixth and the seventh suspects of the investigation, were also found guilty of supporting and colluding with Messrs Somkiat, Sattjawut, Chat and Khanthasak, Mr Worawit said.
Akara Mining Co had changed the size and location of its second tailings pond after failing to acquire a plot of land it had earmarked in its previously EIA-approved construction plan, said Mr Worawit.
The mining company then sent a letter to the provincial industry office asking to change the construction plan and location of its second tailings pond, he said.
The mining company wanted the approval without having to submit a new EIA report, Mr Worawit said. The new tailings pond also was much larger at 1,351 rai, he said.
Based on previously uncovered evidence, the NACC said it is convinced this new pond contains cyanide and several other toxic chemicals used in gold mining, and it will have a negative impact on the environment, which is why the company did not want to conduct an EIA, he said.
The NACC is also convinced the four state officials intended to help Akara Mining Co secure permission to build a second tailings pond in time to continue its gold mining operations as soon as the first tailings pond was full, he said.
Their acts were seen as colluding in an unlawful activity that would possibly pose a threat to the environment and natural resources, he said.