Northern villagers sue mining company

Northern Thai villagers have filed a lawsuit against a mining company, saying that their health and local environment have been affected by mining activities.

On Friday, 27 May 2016, lawyers from the Lawyers Council of Thailand under Royal Patronage filed a lawsuit against Akara Resources Public Company Limited, a mining company which has operated mines in the northern provinces of Phichit and Phetchabun, in the Environmental Division of the Civil Court in Bangkok, BBC Thai reported.

The lawyers claim to represent about 300 villagers from the districts of Tap Khlo in Phichit and Wang Pong in Phetchabun who have been affected by the company’s mining activities.

They added that more than 1,000 villagers have been affected by the mine.

Somchai Ameen, the leading attorney, told BBC Thai that the case was filed under provisions of the 1992 National Environmental Quality Act, as the villagers’ health has been affected by contamination of heavy metals and cyanide, which allegedly resulted from the mining activities.

According to the Thai News Agency, the representatives of the 300 villagers said that the villagers wanted the company to pay 1.58 million baht in compensation and to pay an additional sum of 50 million baht for the restoration of the environment in the mining area.  

The court will consider whether to accept the lawsuit on 8 July 2016.

Earlier this month, the cabinet under Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, ordered the closure of the Chatree Akara gold mine in the northern province of Phichit, which is operated by Akara Company.

The mining company, however, will be allowed to continue mining operations until the end of 2016. The cabinet resolution was reached as the mining concession of the company is about to expire on 13 May 2016.

According to the resolution, the mine shall be closed by the end of 2016 and the mine operator shall begin procedures to rehabilitate the environment around the mining area.

The resolution also states the Ministry of Public Health shall take care of people whose health has been affected by the mine and that the Labour Ministry will assist employees of the mine once it ceases operations.

The controversial gold mine has been opposed by many villagers and environmentalists who claimed that the mining operations of the company have affected their health and livelihoods. However, many villagers in the area also support Akara, saying that the company provides jobs to many people in the region.

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