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Thailand to order Australian firm soon to close gold mine

[BANGKOK] Thailand will formally notify the Australian operator of the country's only active gold mine by the end of May of a government order to halt operations, a senior industry ministry official said on Wednesday.

The Chatree mine, owned by Kingsgate Consolidated, has been at the centre of protests by farmers and villagers who say that it has poisoned residents, crops and livestock.

The ministry announced on May 10 it had ordered the closure, but Kingsgate said it had not received formal notice and that its local unit Akara Resources would continue to operate until it received the order.

"We will submit formal documents to Akara Resources by May for sure," Chat Hongtiamchant, chief of the Department of Primary Industries and Mines, told Reuters. "We need to be cautious and thorough before we submit this, but it will definitely be done soon." The documents sent to the company would detail environmental concerns, regulations, and rehabilitation plans, he said.

Last year, a government team said that more than 300 people had tested positive for arsenic and manganese at the mine.

The company at the time denied it was to blame and the mine was allowed to reopen after a 44-day suspension.

Kingsgate's spokesman recently said previous tests carried out by the government indicated that about 100 people living around the mine had high levels of toxic substances in their bodies, but investigations linking the finding to the mine were inconclusive.

REUTERS