Thailand’s Prime Minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, has ordered that all mining in the country be stopped by the end of the year, including Akara Resource’s Chatree gold mine, the only gold mine in the country.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Chan-ocha cited public outcry over health and environmental issues for the decision. The mine has been the target of allegations of contamination of nearby villagers. Akara Resources denies the claims.
Akara is a subsidiary of Australian company Kingsgate Consolidated Ltd. and produced and exported 4 t (4.4 st) of gold in 2015.
Kingsgate's chief executive officer Greg Foulis said that, after 15 years creating jobs and making a substantial contribution to the Thai economy, the government's announcement came as a surprise.
He said the decision was at odds with the results of a comprehensive report by independent experts that clearly concluded that the Chatree mine operations caused no harm to the health of the nearby community or the environment.
"Not only has nobody died, nobody has even been sick or shown any symptoms of anything and yet we still go on with this giant farce," Kingsgate chairman Ross Smyth-Kirk said in April.
In January 2015 a military government investigation team said that more than 300 people tested positive for arsenic and manganese at Akara Resources' Chatree mine, located 280 km (174 miles) north of the capital Bangkok.
Akara can continue its operation until the end of the year, Industry Minister Atchaka Sibunruang said in a statement.
An agreement has been reached between the company and state agencies to offer health care to affected villagers, she said.
Akara said in a statement that the cabinet announcement came as a surprise and that the firm's mining lease was valid until 2028.
"Time after time we have proven conclusively that we cause no harm to the health of our community or the environment," Akara said. "We contribute large amounts to the Thai economy."