Civil society group condemns junta's controversial mining bill

A network of anti-mine activist groups has condemned the Thai junta for pushing a new controversial mining bill without public participation.  

On 7 December 2016, the People’s Network of Ore Owners, a coalition of anti-mine activist groups from across the nation, issued a public statement to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA).

The statement urges the junta not to consider the new controversial mining bill which the NLA plans to pass on 8 December. It condemns the junta for trying to push the bill and demands authorities to withdraw the bill all together.

“All bills related to mining should be withdrawn from the National Legislative Assembly until there is a process for people to participate in the bill’s drafting under an elected civilian government,” reads the statement from the People’s Network of Ore Owners.

Under Article 132 of the controversial bill, the Department of Primary Industries and Mines (DPIM) can conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on areas with mineral resources without participation from local communities.

The period of time for the state to approve mining concessions would also be shortened from approximately 310 days, as under the procedures of the 1967 Mining Act, to only 100-150 days. Moreover, the EIA and Environmental Health Impact Assessment do not need to be conducted before the concession is granted.

Mining businesses may also be allowed to use previously protected forest lands for mining activities, according to the Assembly of NGOs for the Protection and Conservation of Environment and Natural Resources.

Lerdsak Kamkongsak, an environmental activist and researcher based in the northeast, said several articles of the bill make it clear that it aims to raise the profit margins for shareholders as quickly and as much as possible, regardless of environmental and social costs.

“The Industry Ministry and DPIM are supposed to act as regulators, but they are monopolising the entire process of granting mining concessions and conducting the EIA,” said the activist.

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