Thailand’s government has passed a mineral bill allowing the legal operation of gold mines in the country, weeks before the anticipated closure of Kingsgate Consolidated’s Chatree gold mine.
The mine, operated by Kingsgate subsidiary Akara Resources, was scheduled to close at the end of the year following a parliamentary announcement that all mines must end operations by New Year’s Eve, according to the Canberra Times.
Under the new law, mining companies are no longer required to have a metallurgy licence, which came as a surprise to Kingsgate chairman Ross Smyth-Kirk, who said the company was not aware of the dealings in parliament.
“We’ll have to wait for some kind of official [notice],” he commented.
The site’s mining licence expires on December 31, but Kingsgate has a concession to continue operations until 2028.
Prior to the bill, the company had begun axing workers and announced that the operations will be under care and maintenance next year.
Chatree has faced a number of challenges over its potential environmental and health impacts.
In January last year, operations were suspended following orders from the country’s environmental watchdog, after sampling found high levels of arsenic and manganese in the blood of those living close to the mine.
At the time, chairman Ross Smyth Kirk said the chemicals had never been used at the operations.
The site was ordered to close again in May, with Akara Resources denying all allegations about the metal poisoning.
“Time after time we have proven conclusively that we cause no harm to the health of our community or to its environment,” the company said in a statement.
Chatree is Thailand’s largest gold mine.