After being shut down by the government over environmental and health concerns more than six years ago, the Chatree gold mine in Thailand resumed operations on Thursday. The Australian-owned mine was forced to halt operations in May 2016 after protests from local villagers, who claimed it was poisoning crops and livestock. Despite the mine’s owner, Kingsgate Consolidated, launching arbitration proceedings seeking compensation, the Thai government agreed to its reopening last year. The mine, operated by Thai subsidiary Akara Resources, poured its first bars of gold-silver alloy, processed from ore stockpiled in 2016, on Thursday.
At the time of its closure, the mine was the largest in Thailand, straddling three rural provinces in the kingdom’s north. Despite concerns about the heavy metal levels in blood tests conducted a decade ago, the mine’s Australian owners claimed that arsenic and manganese occurred naturally in the area. While some in the area are welcoming the economic boost that the mine’s reopening will provide, others remain concerned about the chemicals and metals that it will produce. Akara senior human resources officer, Chalita Kongpradab, described the mine’s closure as devastating for the community, with many forced to find work far away or shut down their small businesses. The mine’s current workforce numbers 280 but could more than double in coming years.