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After almost 3 decades, Nong Bua Lamphu community rights group now hopes for permanent end to mining operations

After more than two decades of struggle against quarry mining in Dongmafai sub District, Suwannakhuha District ,Nong Bua Lamphu Province, the community women and men human rights defenders impacted by the mining will organize a blockade in an attempt to stop the mining operations.

The blockade is likely to take place in front of the mining site if the demands with the Provincial Governor of Nong Bua Lamphu and related agencies to permanently shut down the mine and Mine rehabilitation are not met during the roundtable negotiations this Thursday, 13 August 2020.

The blockade is to be led by the Khao Lao Yai-Pha Jun Dai Forest Conservation Group, an environmental community-based W/HRDs group impacted by the mining operations. The group has opposed the mining operations for the past 26 years, which has sadly resulted in the killing of 4 HRDs/members of the group between 1993-1999. No perpetrator was held responsible for the crimes.

It is estimated that about 4,000 people who reside in six villages surrounding the mining sites are impacted by the daily explosions which causes noise pollution and damage to households due to falling debris. It also impacts the villagers’ access to sources of food in a nearby community forest. The mining area currently occupies 175 rai of a total of 200-rai of community forest.

The group demands that the forest reserve area utilized by the mine be rehabilitated. It also demands that the authorities declare the area a conservation zone for its archaeological sites. Parts of the area has been registered by the Fine Arts Department, Ministry of Culture as an important archaeological site as 3,000 years old mural paintings were found in the caves of a nearby cliff.

According the new Mining Act 2017, forest area which is found to have watersheds or archaeological sites must be exempted from mining. The reserve in Dongmafai Subdistrict has both, raising the question as to why the authorities still allowed the company to continue its mining operations.

In 2004, the Administrative Court revoked the company’s permit to utilize the forest and their mining license due to not fulfilling adequate regulatory requirements. However, this decision was later overturned in 2010 by the Supreme Administrative Court when the mining permit also expired. The company’s license was subsequently renewed in 2010, and is due to expire on 24 September 2020.

In 2018, the Udon Thani Administrative Court revoked the company’s second mining permit after a lawsuit was filed by the local residents. It ruled that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and other government agencies had failed to allow public participation, as required by the constitution, prior to granting a permit for the firm to mine limestone. However, since the company appealed the decision, the mining operations still continues until today.

Despite the decades-old opposition by the local residents to utilize the forest, which contradicts the basis in obtaining a mining license, the company still proceeds with obtaining the permit renewal. The group has found a number of illegalities during the permit renewal procedures such as the tactics done at the subdistrict administrative level to approve the utilization of the forest reserve despite the villagers’ opposition.

Therefore, the W/HRDs of the Khao Lao Yai-Pha Jun Dai Forest Conservation Group is set to have a roundtable negotiation with the Provincial Governor of NongBuaLamphuProvince and other 8 related state agencies related to the mining license approvals. The agencies invited include the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of the Natural Resource and Environment, the Provincial Industry Office, the Department of Primary Industries and Mines.

The negotiation is to take place from 10am at the NongBuaLamphu Provincial Hall. If the group’s demands are not met, they will organize the people’s blockade at the company’s mining entrance in Dongmafai Subdistrict.

The group also plans to organize a public forum on the afternoon of the 13th at the blockade with details as follows:

“Three generations of struggle at Dongmafai: #LetsEndItInOurGenerations”

The Speakers include:

  • Sunee Anuwet, a 61-year-old mother who has joined the Khao Lao Yai-Pha Jun Dai Group since she was around 40 years old and still plays an active role in organizing the communities.
  • Wilai Anuwet, Sunee’s daughter, whose house is affected by the frequent noise and tremors from the mining explosions. She will also join in the negotiations with the Provincial Governor. 
  • Khoon Atsaphai, the uncle of Sunee has opposed the mining since the early 1990s and still continues to be active leader of the group.
  • Juthamas Srihutthaphadungkit from the People’s Network Who Own Mineral Resources, a nationwide network of grassroots communities who hold authorities and extractive companies accountable. Juthamas will discuss the failure of state intervention, the mechanisms to protect the natural resources and the importance of communities’ rights to protect their environment.

The blockade is set to occupy the mines entrance until the authorities agree to the terms of the group’s demands.