Potash Mining Project Sparks Tearful Protest at Cabinet Meeting in Korat

"The first bag of your fertilizer comes with people's tears," said a member of the group campaigning against potash mining in Nakhon Ratchasima Province on July 2, 2024.

NAKHON RATCHASIMA“The first bag of your fertilizer comes with people’s tears,” said a member of the group campaigning against potash mining to Industry Minister Pimpatra Wichaikul as she handed over a letter opposing the project to the government.

This protest took place in front of the Rangsrit Auditorium of Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University, the venue of the mobile cabinet meeting in Nakhon Ratchasima province on July 2, 2024.

The protesters announced that they would burn the letter at the entrance used by ministers and the prime minister if the prime minister did not come out to receive their letter.

This prompted officials to change the entrance for the Prime Minister and other ministers, while Pimpatra herself came out to receive the protest letter.



The protesters said Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin wanted to push ahead with the potash mining project, citing the need to offset 800,000 tons of imports. However, it was discovered that the government had already approved mining of more than 3 million tons. Government officials and private companies have been seeking mining concessions in Non Thai, Non Sung, and Mueang districts.

The demonstrators then laid out salt from the rice fields affected by potash mining in front of Pimpatra and proclaimed three demands:

  1. Revoke the second version of the Mineral Management Master Plan in relation to potash as it does not comply with the Mineral Act B.E. 2560 (2017) where there is no surveying and no zoning for mining areas.
  2. Allow exploration and mining of potash in areas not zoned as mining areas.
  3. Review the environmental impacts of potash mining development in light of changing conditions and demand for potash.

“The goal of mining has shifted from reducing imports to focusing on exports. The previous environmental impact assessment was carried out hastily, disregarding the balance of local livelihoods and adequate consideration of environmental and health impacts,” the statement reads.

Previously, on 7 November 2023, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin ordered the operations of three potash mines with granted concessions in three areas: ASEAN Potash Chaiyaphum Co., Ltd. in Bamnet Narong District, Chaiyaphum Province; Thai Kali Co., Ltd. in Dan Khun Thot District, Nakhon Ratchasima Province; and Asia Pacific Potash Corporation Limited in Udon Thani Province.

This has caused concern among the Khon Rak Ban Kerd Dan Khun Thot Group, the local residents affected by the potash mining projects, who have called for a suspension of mining operations.

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Industry Minister Pimpatra Wichaikul receives a letter opposing the Potash Mining Project from protesters on July 2, 2024.

The protest representatives called on the government to immediately address the impact of potash mining in the Dan Khun Thot district of Nakhon Ratchasima province. Ignoring the problem or delaying action would indicate the Ministry of Industry’s inability to regulate and effectively manage mining.

“If the government continues to fail to address the problems, it shows that it does not really value people’s quality of life and is only focused on GDP figures. The continuation of potash mining in Isaan could irreversibly damage the region,” said the group’s representative.

After receiving the protest letter from the Minister of Industry, one protester said in a trembling voice and tears, “The first bag of your fertilizer comes with our tears. Take us with you instead; the first bag of your fertilizer is right here.”

The Khon Rak Ban Kerd Dan Khun Thot Group, local residents affected by potash mining projects, protest in January 2024 calling for a suspension of mining operations.

Minister Pimpatra stated that since the protests in 2019, several committees have been established to investigate the impacts on the public, both at the provincial and departmental levels. Multiple on-site fact-finding missions have been conducted. At this stage, the investigation results cannot conclusively determine whether the various impacts are caused by the potash and rock salt mining project of Thai Kali Company Limited, which has held a mining concession since 2015.

Currently, Nakhon Ratchasima province has appointed a new working group, focusing on the participation of community representatives in the area to examine the demands and impacts of the 2nd Mineral Management Master Plan. The review of the Mineral Management Master Plan will begin again in 2025, incorporating various demands and proposals regarding the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) into the plan’s revision.

According to an academic study by Suwit Kulabpong, a consultant for the Udon Thani Environmental Conservation Group, the construction of potash mines has a significant impact on the environment and local residents.

The main issues include problems with groundwater, competition for water resources, the high potential for salt leakage and the spread of salt dust within a 25 square kilometer radius of the mine. The continuation of the mining project may not be worth the associated environmental and social problems.