Mine company threatens locals with legal action
published : 18 Sep 2014 at 06:00
newspaper section: News
The main contractor and partner of the company that runs the Chatree mining complex in Phichit province has threatened to take legal action against activists, accusing them of making false claims about the impact the gold mine has on villagers' health.
The move comes after local activists recently submitted a petition bearing the names of 179 villagers to the National Council for Peace and Order, accusing the mine of harming the environment and the villagers' health.
The junta ordered an investigation and a hearing into the dispute, including conducting blood and urine tests among villagers.
The company accused some of the mine's former employees-turned-activists of orchestrating the anti-mine campaign with the ulterior motive of trying to force Akara Resources, the company that holds the mining concessions in the area, to buy their nearby land holdings at exorbitant prices.
"Everybody knows they [the former employees] are motivated by self-interest, and by making these false claims they're jeopardising the livelihoods of several hundred villagers and their families," said Nucharee Sailasuta, the managing director of Lotus Hall Co, the main contractor and partner in the gold-mining operations in the area.
Ms Nucharee rejected activists' claims the gold mine has caused environmental and health hazards.
"While Lotus Hall welcomes any opportunity to work with the authorities, I will call on them [the authorities] to let common sense prevail and resolve this issue quickly.
"We need to secure a prosperous long-term future for my employees, their families and the community," she added.
Nantida Sangwal, a protest leader, said the locals are not concerned about the actions of the mining company, since they have been threatened several times in the past.
She is facing a defamation suit by the mine operator but prosecutors have yet to indict her.
Ms Nantida denied claims the company's former employees were behind the protest, saying the opposition to the mine and the impacts on the community from it have been swelling for a decade, while the company had laid off the employees in question only recently.
She said it was not right that the mine operator threatens locals who are seeking help from the junta.
"We are asking you [Lotus Hall Co] to improve yourselves, but you come out to intimidate us instead, widening divisions in society," she said.
She insisted the mine has hurt the environment.
"We even have to buy vegetables from other areas," she said.