Thai villagers may have been poisoned by gold mine

A Thai gold mining company is under fire this week after lab results indicated as many as 6,000 people may have been poisoned by heavy metals.

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, according to a report in Friday's Bangkok Post.

Manganese can cause neurological problems and arsenic can invoke symptoms similar to Parkinson's disease.

The Post reports that testing began after villagers complained about health and environmental concerns near the Chatree Mining Complex about 280 kilometres north of Bangkok. It will be up to the Justice Ministry and authorities in Phichit province to decide what to do about the results.

Akara Resources said in a statement that it will cooperate fully with the testing. CEO Pakorn Sukhum maintained that the company "operates to the best international practices on health and environmental standards" and that the Chatree Mining Complex is reguarly checked by government agencies.

The news release also states that the tests are part of a smear campaign by local activists, including a former employee, that are "harboring ulterior motives." The company notes that it tested workers this past June and found arsenic and manganese levels within the normal range.

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.