Locals point to severe water pollution near Akara gold mine



PEOPLE living near Akara’s gold mine in Phichit have reported water pollution in local canals and paddy fields, and are awaiting results of tests by the authorities, the mining company and academics.
Local gold mine protester Thanyarat Sinthonthammathat published pictures and a video clip on Friday of what appeared to be severely polluted, black water in a canal near the Chatree gold mine in Tambon Khao Chet Luk, Thap Khlo district.
Thanyarat told The Nation yesterday this was not the first time that local people had found the canal polluted. She claimed that the polluted water had come from a spring in a paddy field near the gold mine’s tailing storage facility. The mining company has denied that any leakage has occurred.
“Local people have witnessed the wastewater leakage from the gold mine several times but this time there is more polluted water than previously and it has totally turned the water in the canal black,” Thanyarat said. She said the polluted water in the canal and paddy field near the gold mine had a very bad smell that irritated people’s respiratory tracts. Many dead fish have also been found in the canal.
“We are very concerned about the toxic substance in the water,” Thanyarat stressed. “Two years ago we found that the spring water in the paddy field near gold mine contained a high level of cyanide.
“We want the authorities to transparently examine the water and tackle this issue as soon as possible, because this canal flows to Nan River [one of four major tributaries of the Chao Phraya River] and if the water contains dangerous substances, people in the entire Chao Phraya River Basin will be at risk too.”
It has been reported that a team from the Pollution Control Department, Akara Resources and Naresuan University had collected water samples and analysed it separately at their laboratories. The results are expected to be released within the next three weeks.
Meanwhile, the head of Akara’s corporate affairs group, Cherdsak Utha-aroon, denied that the polluted water had leaked from the gold mine’s tailing storage facility and claimed this was another effort by the opposition group to defame the company.
“The paddy field is on the west of the second tailing storage facility, which is currently operational. However, our gold mine has suspended its operations since January and our tailing storage facility is properly built and will not leak,” Cherdsak said.
“It is very intentional that Thanyarat, who lives quite far from the paddy field in question, has found a polluted water leakage here.”
He stated that the company also doubted the cyanide contamination claim and urged that such an allegation needed to be proven scientifically. He emphasised that once the test results were released, every stakeholder should respect the result.
The environmental and health impacts from the Chatree gold mine have always been a hot issue between the gold mine operator and the opposition group. 
This was the main reason for the government ordering the closure of the gold mine in January. The closure has triggered Akara’s parent company in Australia, Kingsgate Consolidated, to sue the Thai government. That case continues.