Villagers force closure of gold mining meeting

Villagers force closure of gold mining meeting

Members of Khon Rak Ban Kerd, a local environmental group opposing gold mining in Wang Saphung district in Loei, try to break a barrier to go inside the meeting. (Photo from Wiboon Boonpatararaksa Facebook page)
Members of Khon Rak Ban Kerd, a local environmental group opposing gold mining in Wang Saphung district in Loei, try to break a barrier to go inside the meeting. (Photo from Wiboon Boonpatararaksa Facebook page)

Opponents of gold mining operations in Loei on Friday forced an abrupt end to a meeting where local politicians were trying to extend a licence for a mining firm.

The Tambon Khao Luang Administration Organisation held a council meeting at its offices in Wang Saphung district. The agenda was whether it should allow Tungkhum Co to extend its gold mining operation in the area under its present licence.

People in Thung Luang have been divided on the issue since Tungkhum started mining in their tambon as part of its gold mining operations covering more than 28,000 rai of land on 107 plots in Loei.

Six villages directly affected by the mining in tambon Thug Luang formed the Khon Rak Ban Kerd group to protect the environment.

They sent 20 representatives to observe the meeting, which also included representatives from Tungkum and the provincial offices in charge of environment, industry and land. Another 300 group members gathered outside to oppose the licence extension.

The meeting had been arranged before the cabinet decided on Tuesday to stop renewing and issuing licences for gold ore exploration and gold mining due to concerns over health and environmental issues.

Council chairman Samai Pakmee suggested the meeting be adjourned until the cabinet decision was clarified.

"We should wait to see the cabinet resolution in writing and call another meeting afterwards. The meeting today should be cancelled," he said.

The representative from the provincial office of the Industry Ministry reportedly backed the idea but supporters of gold mining in the council strongly opposed the suggestion.

After the chairman walked out of the conference room for a break, deputy chairman Watcharapong Buabanut took the floor and immediately ordered the meeting to continue in an attempt to push the approval through.

The representatives of the Khon Rak Ban Kerd community-based group inside the room booed them, and started to throw chairs and whatever else they could put their hands on at the meeting participants. Protesters outside tried unsuccessfully to break through a barrier set up by police and soldiers and go inside.

Authorities then decided to escort 16 council members believed to be supporters of the mining operation out of the area in army vehicles.

The council of the Tambon Tha Luang Administration Organisation has 26 members, according to its website.

A mining licence also needs endorsement from the tambon council or the tambon administration organisation in the area, according to the Department of Primary Industries and Mines.



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