By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
MORE THAN 2,000 families are still living within an area vulnerable to landslides and pollution from the Mae Moh lignite mine, despite the Supreme Administrative Court order in 2014 that the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) evacuate people as a safety precaution.
Maliwan Nakwirot, a resident living near the mine in Lampang, yesterday said a landslide in the area on Sunday was the result of misconduct by the mine operator, which had been piling excavated soil into unstable piles instead to storing it in abandoned mine pits.
“It is not the first time that there have been landslides at Mae Moh mine. There have already been three major landslides at the mine since last year, as these mountains of soil are not stable and are ready to slide anytime,” Maliwan said.
“Egat has also failed to follow the mine restoration order in the Supreme Administrative Court verdict, as the court directed Egat to fill soil back into mine pits and reforest the abandoned mine area.
“The risk of further landslides is still present.”
She added that although the recent landslide had not caused direct harm to local people, a landslide in October had affected up to 12 rai (1.9 hectares) of land and damaged nine houses in a nearby community.
“More than 2,000 families in four communities are still living in high-risk areas for landslides and other environmental impacts from lignite mining operations, as Egat and the problem-solving committee still have not complied with the Supreme Administrative Court judgement for Egat to relocate them to a safe area five kilometres away from the Mae Moh mine,” she said.
Maliwan added that Egat should “sincerely” address problems with the mining operation and follow the Supreme Administrative Court judgement, as it had been four years since the verdict.
Meanwhile, Thaworn Ngamganokwan, Egat deputy governor on fuel management, said the Sunday landslide had caused only minor damage and the affected area was limited inside the mining area with no direct impact to nearby communities.
“We suspect that the landslide was caused by heavy rains in recent days, but in order to solve the problem at its roots, Egat has invited experts from both domestic and international agencies to inspect the area and find long-term solutions to prevent landslides,” Thaworn said.
“Moreover, Egat is reporting the real-time situation in updates to Lampang’s local authorities, relevant agencies and the leaders of local communities to keep them informed about the situation.”
He said the mine’s soil conveyor belt, five high-voltage power poles and a connecting road between Tambon Bandong and Mae Moh district had been damaged.
Egat had also dispatched officials to close down the affected areas as a safety precaution.