EARTH Thailand

Residents demand help after report concludes mine hazard

The Nation 02 March 2018 | PRATCH RUJIVANAROM

Tests of groundwater in Phichit area indicate toxic sulphates and heavy metals came from Akara’s tailing storage facility.

PEOPLE affected by environmental and health impacts from the Akara Resources Chatree gold mine in Phichit province yesterday urged authorities to address their problems, after an inspection by scientists of the mine’s first Tailing Storage Facility (TSF1) confirmed the leakage of toxic substances to the environment.

Industry Ministry permanent secretary Pasu Loharjun said in a statement on Wednesday that the study results by the team of researchers from Naresuan University and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan found clear indications of leakage from the gold mine’s TSF1.

Pasu said the results of the inspection, which used geophysics and isotope techniques, had already been approved by a working group of specialists, which confirmed indications that contaminated water had leaked from TSF1.

Water leaking

The research team also found abnormalities in the water’s electrical resistance, which matched water samples from TSF1, while geophysical and isotope examinations of samples from five observation wells to the south and southwest of TSF1 also indicated water from the facility was leaking.

They also found a spring to the south of TSF1 where water samples were contaminated with sulphates and heavy metals, which matched the chemical compounds of water stored in TSF1, Pasu said. However, water at the spring did not show cyanide contamination.

“There will be more monitoring on changes of water quality around Akara’s gold mine to ensure the safety of the environment and people’s health,” Pasu said.

However, a local resident who lives near the gold mine, Thanyarat Sinthornthammathat, said she was not satisfied with the reaction of the Industry Ministry after the results were publicised. She urged relevant agencies to take action on environmental and health problems. “Local people still have to live in the contaminated environment without any help, and there are no clear measures to restore the environment, despite it being clear that the toxic contamination from the Chatree gold mine is real,” Thanyarat said.

‘Need to clean contamination’

She said residents had been forced to use groundwater for consumption after Akara ceased distributing clean drinking water when it was forced to shut operations last year.

“Even though the gold mining operation has been suspended, the environmental contamination from the gold mine still exists. We need authorities to clean the contamination and examine how far the contamination from the gold mine goes.”

Thanyarat added that people around the mine were still getting sick from toxic contamination, as they had to consume food and water from the contaminated area.

Rangsit University lecturer Smith Tungkasmit added that academics had conducted several tests on local people’s health and the environment, which proved that toxic substances had leaked from the gold mine for more than three years, despite the many excuses offered by the mine operator.

Smith said the report on TSF1 leakage constituted solid evidence that Akara’s gold mine really was causing the local problems and he urged the public to keep an eye on authorities’ remedial measures, particularly those of the Primary Industries and Mines Department.