By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
Industry Ministry permanent secretary Somchai Harnhirun said yesterday there had been a rumour that Kingsgate, the parent company of Akara Resources, had requested monetary compensation for substantial losses due to the suspension order, but added that the matter was still being discussed.
Somchai emphasised that the government had not made a deal with Kingsgate to pay the Bt30 billion for the closure of Akara’s Chatree gold mine in Phichit despite the rumour to that effect.
“We maintain that Thailand did not violate the Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement [TAFTA] regarding the issue of the suspension of gold mining operations,” he said.
“The suspension order aimed to let all stakeholders investigate the impact of gold mining on the environment and people’s health, and was certainly not a permanent mine shutdown or business takeover.”
Somchai said all decisions on gold-mining operations in Thailand would have to follow the new Mineral Act.
Akara Resources head of corporate affairs Cherdsak Utha-aroon also said his company and its Australian parent company had not made any requests for monetary compensation from the government and there had not been a decision whether to sue the government.
“As far as I can tell, the company is still willing to talk and negotiate for the best solution with the government and we will discuss every aspect of the gold mining problem,” Cherdsak said.
Last Friday, Kingsgate released a statement updating its claim against the government after the company’s representative met with the government, who clarified it would not offer monetary compensation to the company.
However, Kingsgate was informed that the government might be willing to provide other benefits related to the shutdown of the Chatree mine.
“Accordingly, Kingsgate has reserved its legal position under the TAFTA and allowed a further limited period of dialogue with the Thai government,” the statement concluded.
Regarding the latest inspection of the gold mine’s environmental impacts, Somchai said relevant agencies such as the Industry Ministry, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, and the Public Health Ministry were currently working to conclude a result.
“We are now working per the order of the National Council for Peace and Order and the results will be concluded soon,” he said.
In order for the gold mine to be allowed to reopen, he said, there would have to be more discussions with the company to make sure that there would not be any further pollution and operations would comply with laws and regulations.