Over 1,000 Thai miners will be out of a job come January, when the Chatree mining complex shuts its gates.
Chatree, operated by a Thai subsidiary of Australian company Kingsgate Consolidated Limited (ASX:KCN), is Thailand’s largest gold mine and the only one currently operating.
The closure, which affects 1,004 employees, was issued by the military regime under Section 44 of the interim charter to issue an order to suspend gold mine operations from January 1, according to the Bangkok Post. Under the order, licenses for new and existing exploration concessions cannot be issued. The mine’s concessions were good until 2028.
The Bangkok Post says the order was issued Tuesday by National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) chief Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, in order to address conflicts between the mine operator, Akara Resources, and residents over environmental and health issues linked to the mine.
In April last year, authorities ordered a 44-day suspension of activities at Chatree after random urine and blood tests showed above-standard arsenic and manganese levels in people living close to the mine.
But Kingsgate executive chairman, Ross Smyth-Kirk, said at the time that arsenic and manganese had not been used or stored at Chatree at any time in its history, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
The company maintains it has done nothing wrong, but has given up on Thailand, despite recent legislation passed by the National Legislative Assembly that could allow mining with less regulations. It plans to develop a new mine in Chile.
“It’s been a disgrace. There’s still a lot of gold there still to be taken out, needing expertise of people like ourselves who are prepared to spend big investments to get it out. It’s not some tin-pot operation,” Kingsgate chairman Ross Smyth-Kirk, told The Associated Press, via the Bangkok Post.
The open-pit mine started operations in 2001.