The Thai government says it is ready to hold talks with Australian gold mining company, Kingsgate Consolidated, over the closure of its Thai mining operations last year.
The move comes after Kingsgate stepped up the pressure on the Thai government to seek talks as well as compensation for its mine being shut down.
Thai Industry Ministry officials said the government was planning to meet Kingsgate executives as well as officials from related Thai agencies to discuss the mine’s future.
On Monday, Kingsgate forwarded a letter to Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha, seeking talks over the mine’s closure under the Thai, Australia Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA).
Kingsgate chairman Ross Smyth-Kirk said the company was also seeking compensation over the mine’s closure but was initially looking to negotiate a settlement.
“The attempt to have negotiations could take up to three months – we’re hoping to negotiate,” Mr Smyth-Kirk told AAP.
Thai Primary Industries and Mines Department director general Somboon Yindeeyoungyuen told local media the Thai government respected the rights of the company to seek an outcome under the free-trade agreement.
In May last year, the Thai cabinet announced the closure of all gold mines in Thailand, which included Kingsgate’s mine, operated by its subsidiary Akara Resources, at Chatree, 280 kilometres north of Bangkok.
The government’s decision to shut the mine down followed claims by environmentalists that it had caused heavy metal pollution in the surrounding region. The claims were denied by Akara Resources.
Its mining licence was extended to December 31 when operations ceased, with the loss of more than 1000 jobs.
Kingsgate’s chief executive officer Greg Foulis, in a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange, said the company had sought to “engage in consultations as required under TAFTA”.
The Australian government has also been lobbying Thailand to allow for talks to go ahead.
The closure of the mine that reaped tens of millions of dollars in taxes and royalties for Thailand halted plans for the company to invest a further $US1 billion to continue operating on adjacent leases for another 20 to 30 years.
In December, Mr Prayuth promised justice for the company and local people who have been devastated by the loss of jobs and closure of businesses linked to the mine.
He did not elaborate.
For months, Mr Payuth’s government had been sending out confusing signals about the future of the mine.
AAP, Lindsay Murdoch