Gold mining to be suspended
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Gold mining to be suspended

The gold mine of Akara Resources Plc in the Chatree deposit where Phetchabun and Phichit provinces adjoin (photo by Thiti Wannamontha)
The gold mine of Akara Resources Plc in the Chatree deposit where Phetchabun and Phichit provinces adjoin (photo by Thiti Wannamontha)

The cabinet resolved on Tuesday not to renew or issue new gold mining licences so the business can be suspended nationwide by the end of this year and health concerns addressed.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said after the cabinet meeting that the resolution aimed to suspend gold mining nationwide within this year.

"The industry would be [improved to be] more environmentally friendly. New jobs will be found for 1,000 workers and affected residents would receive medical treatment and be rehabilitated," he said.

"By the end of this December, there will not be a gold mine until there are clear answers to all existing questions," Gen Prayut said.

The cabinet made the decision as impacts of gold mining had yet to be studied thoroughly and scientifically. Organisations under four ministries and five committees are conducting relevant studies, the prime minister said.

Authorities would research to determine whether miners already had enough benefits and how much the business affected water and soil, he said.

Industry Minister Atchaka Sibunruang said the cabinet's resolution followed people's complaints about Akara Resources Plc's mining in Phetchabun, Phichit and Phitsanulok provinces.

To cushion impacts, its licence was renewed until the end of this year so that remaining ores could be used. The company would later be instructed to quickly close its mine and rehabilitate the area, she said.

"Checkups on local residents found that many people had heavy metal in their body, which is hazardous," Mrs Atchaka said. "Although it has not been concluded if environmental and health problems of the people result from Akara's mining, the resolution was reached to suspend gold mining nationwide. This is for public interest and to resolve conflicts among local residents."

Akara Resources, which has applied for SET listing, stated on Tuesday the cabinet's resolution came as a surpise as its mining contract was good until 2028. It planned to seek legal advice on the issue.

"The announcement (from the cabinet) has come as a complete surprise to us. We have a mining lease until 2028 and our plans are to mine until then," the statement read.

"Time after time, we have proven conclusively that we cause no harm to the health of our community or to its environment. And that we contribute large amounts to the Thai economy."

Akara, 48%-owned by Australia-based Kingsgate Consolidated Limited, operates Thailand's biggest gold mine in the Chatree deposit. The commercial mining began in November 2011 and the production capacity is more than 130,000 ounces of gold and more than 1 million ounces of silver per year.

The Department of Mineral Resources earlier found that Thailand had high potential for commercial gold mining in two areas. One is the Chatree deposit on 1,200 rai in Thap Khlo district of Phichit and Wang Pong district of Phetchabun.

The other is the Phu Thap Fah deposit covering 1,300 rai in Wang Saphung district of Loei. The miner there is a subsidiary of Tongkah Harbour Plc.

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