Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Akara rejects vote affirming mine leak by fact-finding committee

Jul 30. 2018
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By The Nation

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Akara Resources, the operator of the Chatree mine at the centre of a controversy over health accusations by locals, has rejected the conclusions of a fact-finding committee that confirmed leakage from the company’s first tailing storage facility (TSF1).

The company, a subsidiary of Australian mining enterprise Kingsgate Consolidated, in a press release on Tuesday argued that the finding was not unanimous in a vote by committee members, and that the research that formed the backbone of the committee’s decision did not meet academic standards. 

The committee was formed two years ago by the Industry Ministry to get to the truth and resolve conflicts over public-health and environmental accusations by people living near the Chatree mine and other parties. It is headed by Industry Ministry permanent secretary Pasu Loharjun.

After reviewing the evidence, the committee on July 13 voted that the Pichit gold mine’s storage facility TSF1 had leaked, contrary to company denials, and that could have caused heavy metals from the mine to contaminate the environment.

The Akara statement insisted that the committee’s resolution was suspect and that it was inappropriate for it to be seen as an official confirmation that TSF1 had leaked. The committee members were not qualified to pass judgement on the research, it suggested. 

“Most members of the committee are not specialists or have technical knowledge on this field of study. Moreover, the process to approve this questionable study was only asking the opinion of the committee members, whether they are in agreement with the study finding or not,” the statement said.

Akara said there were only seven members from the official agencies that voted in favour of this study, while six representatives from the local communities and gold mine operator voted against the study, and the remaining 52 members abstained from casting a vote.

The Naresuan University research team led by Tanaphon Phenrat, along with a team from two Japanese institutes, had applied geophysics and electrical resistance techniques to examine TSF1 and its surrounding environment to detect leakage. The report concluded that the water from TSF1 had leaked into the environment, as the team had found the traces of unnatural heavy metal contamination in groundwater downstream from TSF1.

Akara also argued the research did not meet academic standards and that the researchers had used improper techniques to examine the leakage.

Moreover, the company and other specialists have previously protested the report’s result and explained their detailed criticism in the report’s appendix.

“Despite Kingsgate and [the] Thai government having the legal conflict and currently engaging in the arbitration process, the company still believes that the problem solving process of the committee to find the truth and resolve conflicts over the gold mine’s problems will be just and transparent,” the statement wrote.

“Akara Resources also insist that we have strictly followed the laws and regulations under the supervision of Primary Industries and Mines Department, so our operation did not generate the adverse impacts to the environment and health of the local people.”

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