Test shows hundreds in mining area poisoned by heavy metals

Blood examination results of villagers residing in an area with a prolonged mining conflict show that hundreds of people have been contaminated with excessive heavy metallic substances.

The Manager Online, reported that on Thursday, 10 March 2016, Chatporn Ratsadudee, Governor of the lower northern province of Phichit, held a meeting with a committee formed to solve the mining conflict between Akara Resources Pub Co., Ltd, a gold mining operator, and several anti-mine activists.

The meeting was organised at Phichit City Hall. About 40 public officials attended the meeting while 4-5 anti-mine activists were represented in the session.

At the meeting, Smith Tungkasmit, a social science academic from Rangsit University, Bangkok, revealed a report on the blood examination results of 1,004 people from Phichit, Phitsanulok, and Phetchabun Provinces, who are residing in areas mined by Akara Company.

The examination, which was conducted from August-November 2015, shows that the blood of 420 people contained excessive levels of manganese while another 196 people had excessive level of arsenic and 59 people also had excessive levels of syenite.

Of the children who participated in the examination, 165 had excessive levels of manganese while the blood of 53 and two contained excessive levels of arsenic and syenite respectively.

After the results were revealed in the meeting, Cherdsak Auttaarun, one of the managers of Akara Company, rebuked the findings, saying that the examination was not conducted by qualified experts.

He added that the finding does not match with the information from state agencies, such as the Health Ministry and the Pollution Control Department.

Towards the end of the meeting, the Phichit governor said that she will send the examination results to experts and the Ministry of Industry for further considerations.

On the same day, about 60 workers of Akara Company also travelled to the city hall to submit a petition to the authorities, urging them to renew the mining concession for Akara Company as the current concession will expire on 13 May 2016.  

The workers said that if the mines close down, about 2,500 will become jobless.

Earlier this month, 20 military, police, and other officers visited Tanyarat Sintathammatat, a key leader of an anti-mine activist group in Phichit.

The officers arrived at the house in Khao Ched Luk Subdistrict in Tap Khlo District of Phichit at night without presenting any documents or warrants.

The activist said then that the officers told her not to travel to Bangkok to submit a petition to Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, against the mining operations of Akara Company.

In the petition, the anti-mine group urges the authorities not to renew the mining concession for Akara Company as the current concession will be expired on 13 May 2016 and to investigate the enlargement of the company ore processing plant, saying that it was constructed before the Environmental Assessment Impact (EIA) was conducted.