By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM,
THE THAI government has begun preparing for arbitration in the conflict over the ordered closure of an Australian gold mine in Phichit.
Pasu Loharjun, the Industry Ministry permanent secretary, said yesterday that the ministry had already consulted with the government’s legal team on the upcoming proceedings under the Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA).
Last Friday, Kingsgate Consolidated announced that it would commence arbitration proceedings against the Thai government, claiming that the government’s order to suspend the mining operation had harmed their business and violated the TAFTA.
Pasu said the government was in the process of selecting a Thai government representative for the proceedings within the one-month time frame.
He said that the representative would present the government’s case to the arbitrator and negotiate with the representative from Kingsgate. The arbitration proceedings will begin in January next year and could take one or two years to conclude.
The mine, which was closed on January 1, 2017, was operated by Akara Resources, which is owned by Kingsgate.
Pasu also said that the conclusion of the committee looking into the environmental and health impacts from Akara’s gold mine would be included as part of Thailand’s case.
He said direct negotiations between the government and Kingsgate were still continuing as
the company had shown its willingness to keep talking with the Thai government.
Government spokesperson Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd said Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha and the Cabinet had already been informed about Kingsgate’s decision to commence arbitration proceedings.
He said the PM insisted there was nothing to worry about regarding the arbitration proceedings as there was still a chance to end the conflict through negotiation.
“The PM insisted that the well-being of the citizens was the first priority, so despite the … Public Health Ministry being unable to confirm the health impacts from the mining operation, the government has to temporarily suspend the gold mine operation until all inspections on the mine reach a conclusion,” Sansern said.
He also said that the government had acknowledged the amount of compensation for damages to Kingsgate’s business, but it was not a concern to the government.
Kingsgate operates the Chatree gold mine in Phichit via Akara Resources, its subsidiary in Thailand. The gold mining operation at Chatree has been suspended since January 1 as per the order of National Council for Peace and Order.
The committee set up to inspect and solve environmental and health impacts from Akara’s gold mine has still not finished its task and come up with a final conclusion.