Civic societies in Thailand’s central province of Phetchabun have joined in protest against applications for concessions to explore and mine gold in Wang Pong and Chon Dan districts, covering an area of over 70,400 hectares, by Akara Resources Public Company.
The group claims that the area sought for exploration, especially in Wang Pong district, will encroach on about half of the land occupied by residents in Tambons Wang Pong, Wang Hin, Sapperb, Tai Dong and Wang Tarn.
A small group in Wang Pong district submitted a protest note yesterday, to Mr. Chawengsak Kamta, chief of the provincial office of Department of Primary Industries and Mines, signed by 1,059 residents,
Mr. Chawengsak reportedly assured the protesters that residents of the area still have the right to live on the land and the exploration work will not encroach upon them.
A leader of the group, Mrs. On-napa Chaisapsathaporn, told the media, however, that they are surprised they were not warned before their village heads came arrived to post a notice about the applications to explore for and mine gold and to take photos of their villages.
She further said that the villagers do not understand why the department accepted all 24 applications from the company, without checking first whether the land being sought by the company overlaps the land of the villagers.
“Our communities have been in this area for about 100 years. We are happy with it and we do not want a gold mine in our area,” said Mrs. Chawengsak.
Although most of the area is Sor Por Kor (land reform) land, she said that they want the land for their children, so that they can make a living and not to be forced out by a gold mining firm.
Akara Resources Plc, which is affiliated with Kingsgate Consolidated of Australia, operated the Chatree gold mine in Phichit province. Its operations were, however, ordered to cease by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) in 2017, due to environmental and health concerns.
Kingsgate took the case to arbitration, under the Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement, demanding compensation of 30 billion baht.
The two parties are now in negotiating to settle their conflict before there is a ruling from the international arbitrator.
Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS)