Halting of Gold Mining Activities from 1 January 2017
In May 2016 the Thai government issued a Cabinet resolution proposing the shutdown of all gold mines in Thailand by the end of 2016, and that the renewal or issuance of licenses for gold mining activities will no longer be granted.
On 13 December 2016 the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) exercised its absolute power under Section 44 of the Interim Constitution of 2014 to issue NCPO Order No. 72/2559, suspending all gold mining operations and other gold mining related activities.
Under this NCPO Order, which takes immediate effect, related agencies are restricted from issuing or renewing gold exploration licenses, mining concessions, and metallurgical processing permits. The operators have to suspend all gold mining operations and other gold mining related activities from 1 January 2017 onwards. The suspension of operations and issuance of permits by the authorities concerned will continue unless and until a National Minerals Management Policy Committee (NMC) decides to the contrary. Relevant agencies are required to be involved in the rehabilitation of mining areas and the provision of help for people affected by mining operations and their suspension.
Although mine operators have to suspend their operations, they still have a duty to rehabilitate mining areas by taking the measures specified in the Environmental Impact Assessment Report. Any operator who fails to comply with this order is liable for a fine of up to Baht 20,000 or imprisonment of up to a year, or both.
Development of New Minerals Bill
Recently there has been progress concerning a new Minerals Bill. Many years after it was first proposed, as of 1 December 2016 the Bill was in its third reading in the National Legislative Assembly.
The new Bill will consolidate the Minerals Act and the Mineral Royalty Act into one piece of legislation, as well as make numerous other changes, including to the types of prospecting licenses and mining leases, validity periods, and persons authorized to issue those licenses and leases.
Under the new Bill (once it becomes law) there will be an additional committee established, to be called the National Minerals Management Policy Committee (NMC). The NMC will propose strategies, policies and minerals management master plans to the Cabinet for its approval. The NMC will also have authority to oversee all relevant government agencies to ensure they act in accordance with the prescribed strategies, policies and minerals management master plans. Minerals management master plans will be prepared and updated by the NMC every five years. With the approval of the NMC, the Minister is authorized by the new Bill to initiate bidding for mining leases in areas that are designated in minerals management master plans as being approved for mining.
This Bill extensively focuses on environmental and social concerns. Representatives at the local level will be involved and take part as members of committees. The Bill will also impose obligations on operators, for example, a requirement to provide a guarantee for the rehabilitation of mining areas, help for people affected by mining operations, according to specified rules, and the procurement of third party liability insurance.