Thai gold mine, said to have poisoned locals, allowed to reopen

A gold mine that straddles three provinces in northern Thailand has been given the go-ahead to reopen, following a month-long halt due to health concerns believed to be the result of heavy metal contamination.

Thailand's Department of Primary Industries and Mines gave permission to Akara Resources to resume mining at the Chatree Mining Complex in Phichit, Phitsanulok and Phetchabun provinces, after ordering the mine closed for 30 days and for the company to take action over environmental and health impact concerns, Bangkok Post reported last week:

Director general Surapong Chiengtong said on Thursday the company had already filed documentation containing information the department was seeking. It covered a list of local people receiving medical treatment along with documents that confirmed the start of their treatment. It also included a contract to hire academics to investigate the cause of illnesses among people living near the gold mine.

Locals say they will oppose the restart plan, according to The Post.

Last November, lab results indicated as many as 6,000 people may have been poisoned by heavy metals from the mine.

Thailand's Central Institute of Forensic Sciences found manganese and arsenic in 329 of 600 blood samples collected from locals in the Thap Khlo district, where Akara Resources operates gold mines, The Bangkok Post reported.

Manganese can cause neurological problems and arsenic can invoke symptoms similar to Parkinson's disease. Testing began after villagers complained about health and environmental concerns near the Chatree Mining Complex, about 280 kilometres north of Bangkok.

The Chatree Mining Complex is the largest gold mine in Thailand. Since it began processing ore in 2001, up to June 2013, the mine produced over 1.3 million ounces of gold and 5.8 millon ounces of silver. The complex contains an estimated 4.03 million gold ounces and 32.8 million silver ounces at a cutoff grade of 0.30 g/t.