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Udon Thani Communities Battle Government Over Potash and Rock Mining Plan

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In the bustling province of Udon Thani, a wave of fervent activism arose back in 2012 as locals took to the streets to rally against potash exploration. The echoes of those protests are still reverberating today. (Bangkok Post file photo)

Recently, a slew of communities has geared up to launch a legal offensive against the cabinet. The bone of contention? A master plan for mining activities greenlit late last year, which they argue threatens to wreak havoc on their living environments and ecosystems. Chutamas Srihattapadungkit, the astute coordinator of the Project for Public Policy on Mineral Resources (PPM), noted that this issue has become a flashpoint for many communities nestled near the mining fronts.

Villagers have flooded civil groups with complaints, their voices tinged with anxiety about the dire repercussions on public health and the environment following the government’s nod to the second edition of the mining activity master plan in November. Ms. Chutamas pointed out that Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s administration is staunchly backing and pushing for potash mining in the Northeastern expanse, with specific designs set on Nakhon Ratchasima, Chaiyaphum, Sakon Nakhon, and Udon Thani—areas reputed for being rich repositories of potash minerals.

But the concerns don’t stop at potash alone. Rock mining poses its own set of problems, particularly because the region’s limestone mountains play a crucial role in sustaining water supplies vital for agricultural hubs. “If we truly wish to enhance our environment, mining activities should cease entirely,” Ms. Chutamas asserted with determination. The PPM is currently amassing an arsenal of information to lodge a formal complaint with the Supreme Administrative Court, seeking to expunge this mining zone from the master plan. Their petition is likely to hit the court’s docket this month.

Adding to the chorus of dissent, Pranom Somwong from Protection International, underscored that this mining blueprint is at loggerheads with the government’s avowed policy of building a low-carbon economy and its international pledges to mitigate global warming.

Echoing a sentiment that’s shared widely, Supaporn Malailoy of the Enlaw Thai Foundation emphatically declared that living in a pristine environment is an inalienable right for every human. The government, he suggested, bears a responsibility to ensure that people can dwell in locales free from environmental degradation and activities posing health hazards.

Undoubtedly, the unfolding saga in Udon Thani and its surrounding areas is more than just a local squabble over mineral resources; it’s a battle that encapsulates broader themes about sustainable development and the rights of communities to safeguard their natural heritage. As this narrative continues to evolve, all eyes will be on the Supreme Administrative Court to see if justice tilts towards the embattled residents or the mining proponents vying to tap into the earth’s hidden treasures.


  1. Jane D. June 5, 2024

    Protecting our environment should be the top priority! These mining activities are going to destroy natural habitats and harm public health.

    • EconGuru June 5, 2024

      But what about the economic benefits? Potash is crucial for fertilizers, and will boost the economy and create jobs.

      • Jane D. June 5, 2024

        Economic benefits are meaningless if we can’t drink the water or breathe clean air. Health and environment come first.

      • Farmer Joe June 5, 2024

        As a farmer, I think both sides have a point. We need fertilizers, but we also can’t afford to ruin our water supply.

  2. naturalist42 June 5, 2024

    Limestone mountains are vital for maintaining water supplies. Mining them is a short-sighted mistake!

    • Mike R. June 5, 2024

      Short-sighted? How about long-term job creation and economic growth?

  3. Ben T. June 5, 2024

    Has anyone considered if there are less invasive ways to extract these minerals? We shouldn’t have to choose between jobs and nature.

  4. Activist777 June 5, 2024

    It’s clear the government is ignoring the will of the people. This is why local autonomy is so important!

    • John2010 June 5, 2024

      The government is elected by the people for a reason. They’re making decisions for the greater good.

    • Activist777 June 5, 2024

      Greater good for who? The mining corporations?

  5. Lia M. June 5, 2024

    I live near one of the proposed mining sites and the prospect terrifies me. The noise pollution, the dust, it’s all too much.

  6. Concerned_citizen June 5, 2024

    Unsustainable development like this is precisely why global warming is out of control.

    • Glen H. June 5, 2024

      Don’t blame mining for global warming. There are many factors, and we can’t just halt progress.

    • Concerned_citizen June 5, 2024

      It’s not about halting progress, it’s about finding sustainable ways to achieve it.

  7. Tommy B. June 5, 2024

    If we want a low-carbon economy, we need to stop activities like this. It’s absurd that the government is pushing this agenda.

  8. Leila1995 June 5, 2024

    The local communities have every right to fight this. Their health and environment should not be sacrificed for profit.

    • Jerry June 5, 2024

      Agreed! These corporations need to be held accountable.

    • industrial_fan June 5, 2024

      Let’s not demonize corporations. They also have regulations to follow.

    • Leila1995 June 5, 2024

      Regulations that are clearly not enough if communities are still at risk.

  9. envirolover June 5, 2024

    Using rock mining to dismantle limestone mountains is beyond reckless. These formations are irreplaceable.

  10. YoungPro June 5, 2024

    I understand the environmental concerns, but what’s the alternative? Mining can’t just stop altogether. We need those resources.

  11. GreenWithEnvy June 5, 2024

    Alternative? How about investing in renewable energy and rural development that focuses on sustainability?

    • Bill P. June 5, 2024

      Easier said than done! These alternatives won’t bring immediate jobs like mining does.

    • GreenWithEnvy June 5, 2024

      True, but immediate jobs at the cost of long-term environmental damage isn’t a good trade-off.

  12. FutureGen June 5, 2024

    Why aren’t we hearing more from the younger generation on this issue? It’s their future we’re playing with.

    • TeenSpirit June 5, 2024

      We’re here, loud and clear. Sustainability is our top priority and we’ll keep fighting for it.

  13. Techie June 5, 2024

    New technologies could make mining safer and less destructive, but it seems no one wants to invest in that.

  14. oldtimer June 5, 2024

    Back in my day, we didn’t rely on heavy mining and we got by just fine. Look where progress has led us.

  15. Skeptic88 June 5, 2024

    Are we sure these mining activities really pose such a big threat, or is it blown out of proportion?

  16. Marcy K. June 5, 2024

    I’m from Udon Thani and I can tell you first-hand the local flora and fauna are already showing signs of stress. This plan could be catastrophic.

    • Realist June 5, 2024

      Community input is vital, but we can’t halt economic progress because of fears that might not materialize.

    • Marcy K. June 5, 2024

      These are more than fears. We have documented evidence of environmental degradation.

    • EcoWarrior June 5, 2024

      Yes, it’s not just about fears. It’s about taking responsible actions to prevent further damage.

    • Realist June 5, 2024

      Responsible action sometimes means compromise. Complete shutdowns are too extreme.

  17. DogLover June 5, 2024

    People need to understand that we share this planet with other species. We can’t just prioritize human economic gains!

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