Chinese state company seeks permit for potash exploration
China Ming Ta Potash Corporation is preparing to apply for an exploration permit for a 100,000-rai potash mining project in Sakhon Nakhon province.
The Chinese state-owned enterprise was first given permission eight years ago to survey the potential of the northeastern province for potash mining.
The Industry Ministry itself has also been studying possibilities of potash mining for the past 10 years, said Somkiat Pootongchairit, director-general of the ministry’s Department of Primary Industries and Mines.
When it began its study, potash was selling for US$100 per tonne in world markets. The price today is $500-600 a tonne. “In the
[Asian] region, only Thailand has resources for potash, and it’s a pity that it’s a lost opportunity for us as we are now importing from Germany, Russia and Canada,” said Mr Somkiat.
China has demand for 8 million tonnes, India fort 6 million and Asean for 5 million tonnes. Potash is used to produce fertiliser and its byproducts can be used to produce rock salt and magnesium.
Thailand, however, would have a capacity of less than 3 million tonnes if taken into consideration the amount of projects in Thailand that have applied for exploration permits.
The department has now given permits for potash exploration on 74,437 rai area to Asia-Pacific Potash Corporation (APPC) in Udon Thani province and the 100-square-kilometre area to Asean Potash Mining Co in Bamnet Narong district in Chaiyaphum province.
APPC has already surveyed the location and is currently conducting a health and environmental impact assessment (EHIA), which will be followed by a public hearing before approval is sought by the Industry Minister.
Asean Potash, meanwhile, is in the process of surveying the location.
Both projects have already been frozen for nearly two decades because of strong opposition of local communities.
The department has hired King Mongkut’s University of Technology North Bangkok to study strategic environmental assessments (SEA) to implement a development strategy for potash mining in Thailand while taking into consideration economic, social, technological and environmental issues.
“We expect the study to be finished by next month, and when companies come to us we will have to see whether their EHIAs comply with our SEA,” Mr Somkiat said