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Udon residents seek NHCO help for assessment

The National Health Commission Office of Thailand has agreed to a request for further information from residents in Udon Thani campaigning against a potash mine, senior NHCO officials said, after an inspection of the project site on Monday.

NHCO will seek documents used for an environmental impact assessment (EIA) conducted by Asia Pacific Potash Co Ltd, which runs the potash mine, NHCO deputy secretary-general Dr Prajakwit Lebnark said.

The project has been approved, but local people want the NHCO to do a technical study on the mine, so the office will see what it can do to comply with the residents' request.

"A reply will be given to the residents within a week's time," he said.

Udon Thani farmer Manee Boonrawd made a request to the NHCO about the EIA, which was conducted by the firm and approved by the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP) three years ago.

Manee, a member of Environmental Protection of Udon Thani, said her group had never received a reply from the NHCO - only a research study, which she said could not be used as a legitimate reference in their efforts to fight the project.

The woman said her group would ask the NHCO to conduct another mandatory check - a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) - on the potash mine, in Prachak Silapakhom district, to compare it an the Environmental and Health Impact Assessment (EHIA) certificate which the company had got. The group wants to determine if the company's EHIA qualifies it to construct the mine.

The mining project by Asia Pacific Potash covers a 12,000-rai plot. The firm applied for a licence in 2004, but local residents began a campaign against it two years earlier, when they first learned of the firm's attempt to operate the mine.

Prajakwit said the NHCO was a channel through which residents could seek an HIA via the 2007 National Health Act, but he said the Act may not be enable them to halt the mining. "But the NHCO is sincere and willing to help them out," he said.

In February, the Department of Primary Industries and Mines (DPIM) announced a policy to drastically develop and mine economic ore in three mines in the Northeast: a mine licensed to Potash Asean Mine Co Ltd in Chaiyaphum, with a total potash deposit of 570 million tonnes; this mine in Udon Thani, with a deposit of 118 million tonnes, and another mine licensed to Thai Cali Co Ltd in Nakhon Ratchasima. The size of the latter deposit is not yet known.

The project by Asia Pacific Potash and Thai Cali have EIAs that have won approval from the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning. Thai Cali is expected to begin their mine this year as they have "won over" local residents, while Asia Pacific Potash would need to approval from residents in Prachak Silapakhom, apart from HIA approval under NHCO supervision.


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