EARTH Thailand

Cases of blood contamination

Study: residents living near gold mine in Phichit have high levels of manganese


NEARLY HALF of the people living near a gold mine in Phichit province have been found to have abnormally high levels of manganese in their blood as indicated by a study run by Rangsit University.

The university, which collected blood samples from 1,004 people last year, revealed the results yesterday.

Dr Smith Tungkasmit of the university said 420 of the people tested had higher than normal levels of manganese. "About 19.52 per cent of those who provided blood samples also have abnormally high levels of arsenic in their blood. The level of cyanide is higher tha normal in 5.88 per cent," Smith said.

Phichit Governor Chatraporn Ratdusadee said she would forward the test results to a five-partite committee from the Industry Ministry to consider. However, a representative of the mine has tried to oppose the use of these blood-test results.

Employees of the Akara Resources, which operates the gold mine, also submitted a petition via Phichit deputy governor Wissanu Senawin asking Industry Minister Atchaka Sibunruang to allow the firm to continue its gold-mining operations.

Separately, another mining firm has dropped a defamation lawsuit against an environmentalist after a mediation session was arranged by the Mae Sot Provincial Court yesterday. The court was initially scheduled to start two days of witness hearings yesterday in relation to an allegedly slanderous Facebook post, but it decided to encourage both sides to negotiate first. The plaintiff, Tungkum Co Ltd, runs gold-mining operations in Loei's Wang Saphung district, while the defendant Suraphan Rujichaiwat is a core member of the Rak Ban Kerd Group there.

Tungkum lodged a complaint with the Mae Sot Provincial Court in Tak province last year, accusing Suraphan of defaming it and of violating the Computer Crimes Act via a slanderous Facebook post. The post appeared on a Facebook page about mining activities, alleging that the company had obtained its mining licence illegally.

The complaint was lodged in Tak province because Tungkum said an employee of its Tak-based subsidiary had come across the message.

Sor Rattanamanee Ponkla, Suraphan's lawyer from the Community Resource Centre, brought several defence witnesses to the court yesterday, including Niran Pitakwatchara, a former member of the National Human Rights Commission.

"During the mediation session, the company offered to withdraw the lawsuit on condition that it post a Facebook message on the same Facebook page saying that Suraphan did not post the allegedly slanderous message," the lawyer said.

She said Tungkum had lodged several lawsuits against members of the Rak Ban Kerd group, including one in which it is demanding Bt50 million in compensation.

The Civil Court will rule on this case on March 30.