Daily Management Review

Environmental problems make the Thai government close gold mines


Thailand will close the country's largest gold mine Chatree by the end of 2016. The announced reason is the damage to the environment and health of workers – it outweighs the economic benefit from the field’s further development.

The field, and processing plant located there are operated by Akara Resources company, which license expired last Friday. The company asked to renew the license for five more years, but the Thai government has agreed to prolong the permission only until the end of the year, provided that once the work is winded down, Akara will take measures to improve the environment.

Chatree’s work caused numerous protests from local residents and farmers, who spoke about the dangers of gold mining for people, plants and livestock.

Akara Resources, in turn, said that the government's decision came as a surprise, and the company’s license for mining operations is valid until 2028. Akara argue that gold mining does not harm nature or human health.

Mine Chatree, located 280 km north of Bangkok, has operated for 15 years. Production volumes were around 130 thousand troy ounces of gold per year.

It is expected that by the end of 2016, mining of precious metals will be suspended throughout the country. Problems with health of workers in the industry will be discussed and solved.

"The gold mining industry will be modernized in order to improve its environmental performance. Thousands of workers will get new jobs, and affected residents will receive medical care", Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha commented on the decision. "By the end of December, no gold mine will start work until we get a clear answer," said the head of government. 

The effects of gold mining will be investigated thoroughly and scientifically. This will help find out what harms the health of workers, be it on-site work in a mine or heavy metals contaminated water and soil.

"Organizations in the four ministries and five committees are conducting relevant studies," said General Prayuth. 

In mid-January 2015, Akara gold mine was closed for the same reason. Arsenic and manganese was found in the blood of 200 locals.

Akara leaders say they do not use arsenic and manganese in gold mining. In accordance with the operation of the gold mining industry, the company uses cyanide, while claiming that adheres to international standards. 

source: reuters.com