EARTH Thailand

Public rejects NCPO plan for Loei mine

The Nation 30 June 2017 | Pratch Rujivanarom

Academics and local people living near a gold mine in Loei say the current law and National Council for Peace and Order’s (NCPO) order will not facilitate the community’s recovery plan.

A seminar on the Loei gold mine was held by Ecological Alert and Recovery Thailand (EARTH) and Kumamoto Gakuen University, from Japan at Kasetsart University yesterday. 

Speakers, including experts, NGOs, and local people, all said that the land recovery plan must include people’s livelihood and efforts to return harmony in the community.

Eco Culture Study Group coordinator Lertsak Khamkongsak said that the major obstruction of the gold mine restoration plan was that the new Mineral Act and the NCPO order 72/2559 did not lay enough legal foundation for proper mine restoration.

“We have the NCPO order that demands all gold mines stop their operation and set up the mine restoration plan to solve the pollution problems of the people around the gold mine. However, our new Mineral Act does not have clear conฌtent about mine restoration and compensation, so it could lead to the lack of a progressive approach to recover the environment,” Lertsak said.

He also said that the gold mine restoration effort has another problem because the gold mine restoration will be done only on the concession area, but will not include the area outside the mine, which is also contaminated with pollution from the mine.

“The mine restoration plan must include a plan to recover the damaged environment outside the mine, restore the good health and livelihood of the affected people, and mend the conflict caused by the prolonged dispute over the mining operation,” he said.

“People should be healed from all the damages they have received, so the mine restoration plan should be on a wider perspective than what it is.”

Senior coordinator of EARTH Dawan Chantarahassadi also said that she did not see a clear plan to recover people’s health from heavy metal contamination on the environment and asked for the mine restoration plan to consider the impact on people.

“The NCPO order only stated that the Public Health Ministry is in charge of taking care of the health of local people around the gold mine, but there is no clear plan to recover people’s health. It is very important that we must have a clear plan for this big task,” Dawan said.

“I also suspect that local authorities in the province or at best department level are in charge of the mine restoration plan, although I am worried that they will not be responsible for such a big task and the mine restoration plan should be driven from the ministerial level.”

Tanapon Phenrat, a researcher at Naresuan University and expert on mine restoration, also said that to help the environment recovery effort at Mae Tao River Basin in Tak, local people should decide which method suits them the most.

Tanapon said that there are multiple ways to recover the damaged environment but many ways also have an affect on people’s livelihoods, so researchers, officers, and the local people should work together.

Meanwhile, Ranong Kongsaen, a local resident living near Thung Kham gold mine, said that she would like to see the gold mine permanently closed to recover a healthy environment for local people.

“We would like to have our way of life back. We would like to eat food and drink water from the local area safely like the old days. Moreover, we want the restoration plan to cover the harmony in the community, as a decade of fighting between the gold mine and the local people has shattered a once harmonious community,” Ranong said.

She also added she wanted the gold mine company to settle all lawsuits against the local people, as the people did not want to be in the legal trouble with the company anymore.