Thailand’s military regime is likely to force Australian company Kingsgate Consolidated to close its Chatree Gold Project in Thailand by the end of the month. A senior industry ministry official told Reuters that the closure “will definitely be done soon”.

Last week the military government stated that it would shut down the country’s gold mining and exploration industry. This decision will have the most impact at Chatree which is the nation’s largest gold mine, employing almost 1000 people, primarily locals.

The move was said to be on the back of a joint decision by the industry, public health, natural resources and environment, and science and technology ministries to stop issuing and renewing licences.

“We need to be cautious and thorough before we submit this,” the official told Reuters this week.

Chatree is operated by Kingsgate’s Thai subsidiary Akara Resources and is 280km north of Bangkok. It is Thailand’s only active gold mine but has recently attracted environmental protests over alleged contamination of nearby villagers.

Kingsgate and Akara have consistently denied accusations and said that they will not stop operations until receiving formal notice from the government.
In April 2015 authorities ordered a 44-day suspension of mining and exploration at Chatree after random urine and blood tests showed above-standard arsenic and manganese levels in people living close to the mine.

At the time Kingsgate’s executive chairman Ross Smyth-Kirk said that arsenic and manganese had not been used or stored at Chatree at any time in its history. The open cut operations have produced more than 1.8 million ounces of gold.

Last week the chairman said, “We’ve never had an environmental incident at the mine, we’ve never polluted anything, we’ve never affected anybody’s health whatsoever. It’s the most regulated mine probably in the world, that’s why so many of the things said are untrue.

“They [the government] are responding to totally irresponsible media reports. “We know that we were in an area that wasn’t used to modern mining, so we did everything and did it properly,” he told Australian Associated Press.