MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Villagers win lengthy battle against Thai lead miner

Published by MAC on 2008-08-19

Klity villagers to get more help

Appeals Court orders compensation boost

PIYARACH CHONGCHAROEN, Bangkok Post

15th August 2008

KANCHANABURI : The Appeals Court yesterday ruled in favour of eight residents of Lower Klity village whose health was harmed by lead in their water supply, dramatically raising the compensation a mining company was required to pay them. The Appeal Court yesterday upheld the verdict of Kanchanaburi Civil Court that lead contamination of Klity creek caused by the industrial activities of Lead Concentrates (Thailand) Co harmed the health and livelihood of the villagers.

The court also raised the amount of compensation which the lower court had ordered Lead Concentrates to pay to the eight residents, from 4.26 million baht plus 7.5% annual interest to 29.55 million baht plus 7.5% annual interest. The eight plaintiffs are four adults and four children who have developed chronic diseases associated with lead poisoning. They were represented by two solicitors from the Lawyers Council of Thailand.

One of the eight plaintiffs, Kamthorn Srisuwanmala, said he is satisfied with the court's verdict and felt grateful that the court had handed him and the other affected villagers justice. However, he expressed concern that the management of Lead Concentrates may lodge an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Mr Kamthorn said that in the past 10 years, since the contamination was discovered, residents in Lower Klity village have had problems using water from the polluted creek.

About 15,000 tonnes of lead sediment in the creek are thought to have caused the poisoning.

It was suspected the creek was contaminated by the lead sediment discharged from a mining operation upstream. The government has been criticised for restoring the creek too slowly.

The contamination case came to light years ago when many Lower Klity villagers fell sick with symptoms of lead poisoning. About 20 residents are reported to have died as a result of the poisoning over the past 10 years.

The creek has still not been restored to its normal condition, said Mr Kamthorn.

He said if the company agreed to pay him and the seven other plaintiffs immediately, he would use the money to set up a medical fund for Klity residents affected by the lead contamination. Lead Concentrates Co also faces another lawsuit filed by 151 Lower Klity residents who accused the company of damaging their livelihoods and the environment, and demand 1.04 billion baht compensation from the company.

In a related case, the Pollution Control Department was ordered by the Central Administrative Court to pay compensation worth 743,000 baht to 22 Karen villagers affected by lead contamination in Klity creek. The department is appealing against the case.

The case was filed in 2004 by villagers in Thong Pha Phum district.

They asked the court to order the department to rehabilitate the creek and pay compensation to villagers, since it failed to take legal action against the operator that released the lead.

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