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Sakhon Nakhon Potash Mine, Thailand


Description

Potash is a mineral key in the agricultural sector since it is used to produce fertilizers. Thailand, a country with a large agricultural sector, has abundant potash deposits, but “these resources have remained untapped due to strong public resistance” [1]. Thailand is the 5th largest importer within Asia, importing 0.7 million tons of potash every year for the production of potassium fertilizers, according to the Siam Commercial Bank [1]. Main countries of origin of the potash are Canada, Belarus, and Germany. Potash can also be used as a raw material for some chemical products such as glass, soap, and ceramics.

Over the last years, several projects have been proposed in Thailand to exploit those resources. One of those projects is the mine proposed by the China Mingda Potash Corporation (sometimes also written as China Ming Ta Potash Corporation) in the district of Wanon Niwat, in the province of Sakhon Nakhon, in the northeastern part of the country. China Mingda Potash Corporation, is a joint-venture between the Thai and the Chinese government, according to the manager in Thailand of the corporation as quoted by the local newspaper The Nation [2]

In 2015, the company obtained from the Thai government an exploration license covering over 110,000 rai (17,600 hectares) of land. Local villagers have demonstrated for years to oppose the project [3] [9], accusing the company of bypassing the Environmental Impact Assessment process. One of the last protests happened in December 2018 when thousands of villagers walked against the project [4]. In May 2018, at least two local people were charged with organizing an illegal public gathering that forced the exploration to halt [2]. Back then, organizing gatherings with political content of more than five people was banned according to an order released in 2015 by the military junta running the country since 2014.

Activists and researchers have warned of the potential environmental impacts of the project. Thus, underground mining could destabilize the soil and make it sink, while the salinity would also increase due to the large piles that will be created during the processing of the potash.

In October 2018, local residents of Wanon Niwat District released the results of a 2-year participatory research project [5] on the impacts of the mine. According to the research, the development of the mining project would damage the natural resources in the area, including the 31 freshwater fish species that live in the nearby water streams that ”provide the major sources of protein for the local people”.

Activists have also faced harassment. For instance, Satanon Chuenta, an environmentalist who has opposed the mine, filed a complaint in February 2018 contending that a man who claimed to be a police officer had threatened his family [6]. In 2017, the National Human Rights Commission warned the activists that they were being watched [7].

Basic Data

NameSakhon Nakhon Potash Mine, Thailand
CountryThailand
ProvinceSakhon Nakhon
SiteWanon Niwat
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level

Source of Conflict

Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Mineral ore exploration
Specific CommoditiesPotash

Project Details and Actors

Project DetailsArea: the company got a license for 110,000 rais (around 17,600). A rai is a unit of area equal to 0.16 hectares.

Population affected: there is no estimation of how many people could be affected by the mine. However, in the district of Wanon Niwat live 119,759 according to official statistics [8].
Project Area (in hectares)17,600
Level of Investment (in USD)Unknown
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population119,759
Start Date01/01/2015
Company Names or State EnterprisesChina Mingda Potash Corporation from China - Developer
Relevant government actorsMinistry of Industry of Thailand, Government of Thailand,
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersWanon Niwat Environmental Conservation Group, People Go Network (https://www.facebook.com/pg/PeopleGoNetwork)

The Conflict and the Mobilization

Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsPotential: Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsPotential: Other environmental related diseases
Otherdiseases related to the pollution produced by the mine
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession

Outcome

Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCriminalization of activists
Repression
Under negotiation
Development of AlternativesLocal communities proposed to stop any mining activity in the area.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.So far, there has been no compromise from the company.

Sources and Materials

Legislations

Revision of mining codes and laws: Thailand, Kridtaya Sakamornsnguan, Department of Primary Industry and Mines,

Ministry of Industry of Thailand, October 2018
https://www.igfmining.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/2018-AGM-_-Session-3-_-Revision-of-Mining-Codes-and-Laws_-1.pdf

Links

[8] Populations statistics, 2017
http://stat.bora.dopa.go.th/stat/xstat/new/POPHSE/stat_t60.txt

[1] What does potash mining mean for Thailand?, Note, Siam Commercial Bank Economic Intelligence Center, February 19 2015
https://www.scbeic.com/en/detail/product/1174

[2] Two charged over blockading of mine test site in Sakon Nakhon, The Nation, May 16, 2018
http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/national/30345475

[3] Villagers protest against potash mine in Thailand’s northeast, Prachatai, September 27, 2016
https://prachatai.com/english/node/6596

[7] NHRC warns activists are being monitored, The Nation, July 29, 2017
http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/national/30322110

[9] New push for potash mining hits opposition in Isaan, The Isaan record, 14 November, 2017
https://isaanrecord.com/2017/11/14/new-push-potash-mining-hits-opposition-isaan/

[5] Locals see potash mining project as threat to traditional life, The Nation, October 2, 2018
http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/national/30355575

[6] Sakon Nakhon anti-mining activist files police complaint over intimidation, The Isaan Record, February 22, 2018
https://isaanrecord.com/2018/02/22/sakon-nakhon-anti-mining-activist-intimidation/

Media Links

[4] Facebook page for the Wanon Niwat march
https://www.facebook.com/เหมืองแร่สกลนคร

Other Documents

Villagers protest in December 2018 Villagers from Sakon Nakhon organized a 6-day march in December 2018 to oppose the potash mine. Source: https://www.facebook.com/เหมืองแร่สกลนคร
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/potash11.jpg

Villagers protest in December 2018 Villagers from Sakon Nakhon organized a 6-day march in December 2018 to oppose the potash mine. Source: https://www.facebook.com/เหมืองแร่สกลนคร
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/potash22.jpg

Villagers protest in December 2018 Villagers from Sakon Nakhon organized a 6-day march in December 2018 to oppose the potash mine. Source: https://www.facebook.com/เหมืองแร่สกลนคร
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/potash33.jpg

Meta Information

ContributorLaura Villadiego, Carro de Combate, carrodecombateweb@gmail.com
Last update09/01/2019

Images

 

Villagers protest in December 2018

Villagers from Sakon Nakhon organized a 6-day march in December 2018 to oppose the potash mine. Source: https://www.facebook.com/เหมืองแร่สกลนคร

Villagers protest in December 2018

Villagers from Sakon Nakhon organized a 6-day march in December 2018 to oppose the potash mine. Source: https://www.facebook.com/เหมืองแร่สกลนคร

Villagers protest in December 2018

Villagers from Sakon Nakhon organized a 6-day march in December 2018 to oppose the potash mine. Source: https://www.facebook.com/เหมืองแร่สกลนคร