A civil society group has threatened to file legal action against prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha if the government loses a legal battle against Kingsgate Consolidated Ltd and agrees to the company’s terms of reopening its gold mine.
The Network of People Who Own Mineral Resources on Monday issued a statement strongly opposing the government’s plan to negotiate the legal dispute between the Thai government and Australian mining company, Kingsgate Consolidated, by allowing the company to resume its gold mining operation in Thailand.
Such a decision would revive catastrophic environmental impacts for nearby communities, the network said. It warned that the PM must take full responsibility if the government loses the international arbitration lawsuit to Kingsgate, or if it accepts the company’s “unfair proposals” to drop the case.
The statement came after Kingsgate announced that both litigants had jointly requested the arbitral tribunal to further hold its verdict until January 31 next year, as they were currently negotiating an agreement to settle the lawsuit. Major conditions on the settlement include allowing the company to reopen the Akara gold mine, which is run by its subsidiary company Akara Resources Pcl at Pichit and renewing the ore exploration licence on land in nearby Phitsanuloke’s Noen Maprang district.
Lertsak Kamkongsak, Commoners Party Leader and the network’s representative, said the government would be trading the environment and people’s health by allowing the company to resume its gold mining operations. He pointed out that it was the government’s mistake to exercise non-traditional absolute power under Article 44 of the Interim Charter to suspend the gold mining operation in 2016, which later triggered the international arbitration lawsuit between Kingsgate and the Thai government when the company brought the case to the Court of International Arbitration.
“Worse than that, the government did not prove the reason for the suspension of gold mining operations was because the gold mine had caused a severe impact on the environment and people’s health, despite us having many academic pieces of evidence to support our claim,” he said.
Lertsak said the network will closely monitor the outcome of the case and if the government seeks to settle the lawsuit by agreeing to Kingsgate’s terms, they will sue the PM in court.
Meanwhile, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Industry Kobchai Sangsitthisawat admitted the government is negotiating a settlement with Kingsgate, as it is normal procedure to mediate a dispute. Kobchai insisted this does not mean that the Thai government will lose in court. He also assured that the government’s legal team will negotiate while having the country’s interests as its first priority.