THE future of Kingsgate Consolidated’s Chatree Gold Project remained in limbo in mid-June owing to a statement issued by the Thai government on May 10 announcing its intention to shut down the country’ gold mining industry. As the nation’s only active gold mine and an employer of almost 1000, the decision would have a major impact on the region and damage investor confidence in the nation.

The government’s move follows increasing pressure from the public over environmental and health issues, and follows a seven-month review of operations of Kingsgate’s Thai subsidiary Akara Resources along with the health and environmental impacts. This came after environmental groups had accused the mine of using manganese and cyanide in operations with health impacts on local communities. Kingsgate strongly denies these claims, stating it has never used these. 

Kingsgate chairman Ross Smyth-Kirk told Australian Associated Press that the mine operates at high standards. “We’ve never had an environmental incident at the mine, we’ve never polluted anything, we’ve never affected anybody’s health whatsoever. It’s the most regulated mine probably in the world, that’s why so many of the things said are untrue.”

In an announcement in May seeking voluntary suspension of ASX trading, Kingsgate said: “The voluntary suspension is necessary as uncertainty still remains following a public announcement from the Thai Minister of Industry concerning the tenure of the renewal of the licence for metallurgical operations at Chatree Gold Mine.

“Kingsgate has received the renewal of the metallurgical licence for the period ending December 31, 2016, and not the anticipated five years as has been the practice in the past. In addition, the company understands that the licence renewal will be subject to certain conditions which have not yet been provided to the company.

“This decision was made by the Thai Prime Minister and Cabinet and a subsequent attempt to seek a copy of the order for the purposes of clarity has resulted in the company being informed that the order has been classified and cannot be publicly disclosed. The Minister of Industry has not met with the company and not provided any clarity of the company’s position.

“Kingsgate has completed a revised mine plan for the period ending December 31, 2016, however, this remains subject to uncertainty pending clarification of the basis on which the mine can continue to operate.”