The country has been generously endowed by rich reserves and various types of natural resources
THE value-added of mining in Thailand’s GDP was 3.4% of the total in 2005. The major minerals were lignite, industrial minerals and gypsum. The mineral sector in Thailand used to be dominated by tin, however, during the past two decades, the supply of minerals in Thailand has been dominated by local consumption of industrial minerals, which has shown remarkable growth.
The dramatic decline in tin prices in late 1985 forced many of Thailand’s tin mines to close. Production and export of the metal has declined continuously since then, and has turned Thailand from one of the largest tin-exporting countries to a net tinimporting country. However, it was not until 1986 that the ration of industrial minerals surpassed the share of metallic minerals. In 2006, the value of metallic mineral production accounted for about 20% of the total production.
Nevertheless, the share of metallic minerals in exports has been increasing continuously since 1993, and its share surpasses that of non-metallic minerals. The major metallic minerals exported are gold, tin, zinc and tantalum. Tin became once again the major exported mineral in 2006, accounting for around 60% of the total mineral exports. Gold and tantalum came second and third, respectively.
Presently, more than 44 types of mineral are being produced in Thailand with a value of over Bt40 billion. Around 70% of the mineral products are for the domestic market, with the balance being exported. The largest mineral production, in value, is in cement, followed by fuel and energy minerals and industrial rocks. In 2006, the production of these three mineral groups accounted for nearly 70% of the total production (Bt27.4 billion out of the total production value of Bt39.5 billion). However, on an individual basis, lignite has the largest production value – being Bt9.5 billion in 2006.
Most of Thailand’s lignite production comes from the Mah Moh mine of Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) in Lumpang province, north of Thailand. On the other hand, other major industrial minerals such as limestone and gypsum can be found countrywide. Major gypsum deposits are found in Nakron Sri Thamarat and Surat Thani provinces in the south, and Nakorn Sawan and Pichit provinces in the north. As for base-metal minerals group, their production has been increasing over the past decade. In 2006, nearly 60% of total production was zinc ore, valued at Bt5.5 billion, while the value of tin ore was only Bt54.5 million.
Mineral production in Thailand is found throughout the country, reflecting the rich resource and reserve of this country. At the end of 2006, there were 662 mines in operation, compared with 723 mines in 2005. Most of these are extracting industrial rocks (222 mines). As for mineral reserves, the Department of Mineral Resources reported that the values of total reserves reported in mining concessions in 2005 was Bt1,900 trillion, and its potential reserves were estimated at Bt10,900 trillion. The largest mineral reserve was found in rock salt, in the northeast of the country, which has a proven reserve of Bt17 billion and a potential reserve of Bt9,000 trillion. The nearby potash deposit was estimated to have a potential reserve of 400,000Mt, valued at Bt1,840 trillion.
Gold is produced from mines in the lower northern part of Thailand, particularly Pitchanulok province. The major producer is the Chatree mine of Akara mining company, located 280km north of Bangkok. A gold project developed by Tungkum Ltd commenced in 1991 and was completed in May 2006, with a daily throughput capacity of 1,500t. A total of 176,785t ore were processed in 2006.
In terms of managing mineral resources, the Department of Primary Industries and Mines (DPIM) was been established in 2002 as a separate unit from the Department of Mineral Resources. As the prime government agency in managing the mineral and mine development in the country, the DPIM has put the environment at the forefront of concern, and a series of policies have been launched to ensure an optimal utilisation of minerals in harmony with nature. There are numbers of mining-industry associations in Thailand but the most influential is the Mining Industrial Council. MIC was established in 1983 under the Mining Council Act, BE 2526.
According to the Act, MIC will act as the agent of all operators in the co-operation of policies and the implementation of work between the private and public sectors. The main aims are to:
- Act as the representative of the private sector in mining industry to co-ordinate with the public agencies,
- Promote and develop the mining industry,
- Study and solve problems relating to mining,
- Support the interests of the mining sector in ensuring the co-existence and the mutual benefits between mining sector and public, and
- Promote the research and development for the benefits of mining sector.
During 25 years of its existence, MIC has contributed a lot to the local mining industry
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