Angry Loei villagers block gold mine

national May 20, 2014 00:00

By The Nation

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HUNDREDS of villagers living near a gold mine in Loei's Wang Saphug district have blocked miners and staff from entering it in response to them being intimidated and beaten up by a large group of masked men last week.

Villagers have been in a long-running dispute with the mine’s operator over environmental concerns and want the mine shut.

Through written requests made to various government agencies and provincial authorities, villagers are seeking an order to prohibit gold and other ores from being transported from the mine.

The staff at Thung Kham Co yesterday filed a complaint with local police over them being prevented from accessing the mine.

The villagers had earlier lodged a police complaint, claiming they were attacked by about 200 men armed with sticks and machetes. They want the culprits arrested and charged with attempted murder and robbery.

Around 300 residents from six villages in tambon Khao Luang, where the mine is located, are blocking access points to the mine, including a bridge and a network of roads. Spikes were scattered on one road.

They are protected by 10 policemen and civil defence volunteers.

Mine staff converged in front of a college yesterday morning after being blocked from entering the mine. They later filed the complaint with Wang Saphung police but did not accuse anyone.

The locals, through a body called the Group of Homeland Lovers, had earlier issued an open letter calling for Thung Kham’s operation licence to be immediately revoked as well as its licence to sell, purchase and deliver minerals extracted from this mine.

The group also demanded all licenses issued for the company since January 1 be inspected.

The written demands will be forwarded to the Department of Primary Industries and Mines, the National Human Rights Commission, the Loei governor and the Loei police chief and Wang Saphung police chiefs, and the chief of the Loei Provincial Industrial Office.

The group named an Army lieutenant-general as the person who hired the men to raid the six villages.

The incident occurred from around 10pm on Thursday to about 4am the following morning and prevented locals from blocking a convoy of ore-laden trucks from leaving the mine. Locals suspected the ore was being transported illegally.

According to the locals, the attackers intimidated and assaulted around 30 men manning checkpoint outside the mine and removed the checkpoints.

They said the attackers robbed them and fired shots from handguns.

Provincial police chief Maj-General Sakda Wongsiriyanont said he was away on work and had assigned station officers to compile evidence.

Tham-adisorn Muangthong, the head of Loei Provincial Industrial Office’s Policy and Planning Division, said the transport of the ore was legal as the company had been permitted to transport 467 tonnes of copper, gold with silver to Chon Buri’s Sri Racha district pier last Friday and Saturday.