Egat blasts fossils area


The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand yesterday shocked a human rights committee meeting by disclosing that it had already started blasting an area of prehistoric shell fossils at the Mae Moh coal mine in Lampang.

Members of the panel for public rights for water and mineral resources were stunned by the disclosure of assistant Egat governor Phayup Phongpirodom that blasting at the deepest area of the layer of fossils had already started.

The discovery of the fossils, estimated to be 13 million years old, was confirmed by the Mineral Resources Department in 2003. The depth of the fossil layer ranges from six to 12 metres. Fossils of smaller size were scattered around a 43-rai area.

Following the discovery, Egat insisted that it would continue to mine coal there, leading to protests from environmentalists and local residents. The Cabinet then resolved that 43 rai should be set aside for conservation, but late last year it changed tack, reducing the area to 18 rai following claims by Egat that it would be unable to mine coal worth more than Bt1 trillion.

The rights committee asked Egat to suspend the mining pending an investigation into the issue.

Phayup appeared yesterday to speak before a hearing of panel, chaired by Wasant Phanit.

He said blasting had started because Egat feared Italian Thai Development – contracted to mine for coal – would sue for Bt4 billion if the project were further delayed.

Wasant said panels members would visit the site today to try to prevent further destruction of the fossils.

Published on March 01, 2005