By Anil Mathews (ScrapMonster Author)
May 12, 2016 07:52:52 AM
BEIJING (Scrap Monster): Thailand intends to abolish gold mining in the country by the end of this year. The country’s only gold mine is likely to shut down. Australia based Kingsgate Consolidated Ltd who partially owns the Chatree mine said they are yet to receive any formal notice from the government authorities.
Chatree, Thailand’s first and largest modern gold mine had commenced commercial operations in November 2001. The Chatree Mining Complex is comprised of the original Chatree South operation and Chatree North, which began production in November 2008. Since commissioning of the Chatree Mining Complex in November 2001, the mine has produced over 1.6 million oz of gold and over 7.5 million oz of silver as at June 2015. The Chatree Mining Complex’s annual ore processing capacity now stands at 6.2 mtpa.
The local villagers have long been alleging that the gold mining operations have resulted in contamination. According to them, the operations at the open-cut mine has poisoned not only people, but also crops and animals. A government investigation team who visited the locality during January last year had carried out tests among over 1,000 natives. It was found that 41% of the people living nearby the mine had manganese levels “above the standard level”. Also, 20% had high arsenic levels.
Kingsgate officials claimed that the exposure was normal and that it need not necessarily be linked with mine operations. Admitting the existence of elevated levels of manganese and arsenic, the company officials noted that the elevated levels are not to be taken as a serious issue. It further added that the mine had carried out health tests on its staff and the community surrounding the mine. According to Kingstate, it was never concluded by any study that the presence of toxic chemicals in the body of people living around the mine was directly linked to mine activities. The company was then ordered to temporarily stop operations and was allowed to resume mining operations after 44 days.
Shut down order
Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-Ocha had announced last week, the government’s decision to abolish gold mining in the country towards end-2016. The statement issued by Thailand’s Interior Ministry noted that the decision is being taken for the benefit of society and to solve conflict between people. It added that there are still no clear evidences for environmental problems and health hazards created by the mine.
Meantime, Akara Resources- the Thailand subsidiary of Kingsgate, which operates the mine, stated that the government announcement came as a complete surprise for them. It has not yet received any formal order and that the operations will be continued at the mine, they said. Further, it refuted the allegations that mine operations have led to any sort of contamination and stated that it would pursue legal options to fight any such order.
About Chatree gold mine
Chatree gold mine, operated by Akara Resources Ltd, covers vast areas in Phichit’s Thap Khlo district and Phetchabun’s Wang Pong district. The mine had exported nearly 4 tonnes of gold during 2015. The mine employs nearly 1,000 people.