As Udon Thani environmentalists expressed their objection to a public meeting on mining concessions being held at a military camp, Asia Pacific Potash Corporation (APPC) was one step closer to applying for the mining licence.
APPC executive Woravudh Hiranyapaisansakul said yesterday’s public meeting in Non Sung district brought the company closer to applying for a mining licence.
Mining firms are required to have such meetings, or “Prachakhom Mooban”, so they can explain their operations to the villagers and hear what the locals have to say. The information is gathered by the Industry Ministry, which uses it to consider if it should grant the licence.
Woravudh made it clear that such meetings weren’t held to ask for approval for the mine construction. After the village headman submits the meeting report to 15 villages in two sub-districts, the local bodies can hold a meeting in which administrators offer opinions. The information that is submitted to the provincial industrial office is passed pass on to the ministry. Then the minister orders the office to organise a public hearing for the whole province, he added.
However, environmentalists yesterday alleged that the public meeting had been arranged in such a way as to facilitate capitalists to get mining concession as fast as possible.
Manee Boonrod, a member of the Udon Thani environmentalist group, said she received a letter on September 10 to attend the meeting on the potash mining concession in Udon Thani. She said the meeting should not have been held at the military camp, more than 10 kilometres away from communities. The heavy military presence at the site implied that the government did not want public participation and wanted to award the concession to the private sector as fast as possible. She said the regulations state that the public meeting must be carried out at Tambon Huaysampad or Tambon Namuang in Prachaksilapakom district.
She said her group vowed to fight against injustice and the lack of transparency in the mining concession.
NGO Cord’s secretary-general Suwit Kularbwong said the potash mining is a large development project that will have a significant impact to the environment. The government should not rush to give a concession without public participation.
“The Prachakhom Mooban was carried out without justice and the villagers are likely to face problems as a result,” he said.
Rajabhat University lecturer Santipap Siriwattanapaiboon said the Department of Primary Industries and Mines had amended relevant laws in March, which stated that voting in public hearings on projects under the responsibility of the department was not needed.
“This is to facilitate the mining concession without taking into account public participation. The fact that it was held at a military camp means it should not be called a public hearing,”' he said.