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Asia Minute: Thailand Shuttering Its Only Gold Mine

James St. John / Flickr
James St. John / Flickr
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The government of Thailand will be closing a controversial gold mine by the end of the year.  It’s a case that involves overseas investment, local jobs, and questions about health.  HPR’s Bill Dorman has details in today’s Asia Minute.

Nearly 200 miles north of Bangkok lies a dusty pitted landscape that is Thailand’s only gold mine.  It’s operated by Akara Resources—partially owned by Kingsgate Consolidated—an Australian mining company with operations from Southeast Asia to South America.  The gold mine provides nearly a thousand local jobs, but its impact on the community has been under debate for years.  Some local farmers and villagers say the mine has poisoned people, livestock and crops.

Last year, Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health tested more than a thousand people living near the mine.  41% had manganese levels it described as “above the standard”…and about 20% had arsenic levels “above the standard.”  But there is no agreement in Thailand as to what levels are considered safe—and international standards vary.

A statement from Akara Resources said Tuesday’s closing announcement came as “a complete surprise”….adding “time after time we have proven conclusively that we cause no harm to the health of our community or to its environment.”  Thailand’s Interior Ministry issued a statement saying there was “no clear conclusion” that the mine caused health or environmental problems but, quote, “we made this decision for the benefit of society and to solve conflict between people.”

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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