The Department of Special Investigation and border patrol police have raided three illegal mines and seized more than 100,000 metric tonnes of fluoride mineral ore worth over 400 million baht in Pai district of Mae Hong Son.
One mine manager was arrested yesterday on charges of illegally mining and clearing forest areas, in what officials say is the country’s largest illegal mining case.
The agency believed the illegal mining, which threatens the watershed area of the Pai River, was masterminded by influential figures, including local politicians and senior officials.
The mines belong to Sahachart Setthakit Co and South East Transport Co, which are under the same ownership umbrella, according to Pol Maj Gen Surapol Thongprasert, deputy commander of the Border Patrol Police Bureau.
Residents had complained to the Industry Ministry about large-scale illegal mines in the province for more than 10 years. The case was forwarded to the DSI.
The agency worked with border patrol police, the Industry Ministry and the Royal Forest Department.
They raided the companies’ three flouride mines in tambon Muang Paeng on Tuesday.
The mines are on Sor Por Kor land under the state land reform scheme, which is usually given to landless farmers.
The officials said 102,800 tonnes of fluoride mineral ore worth 411 million baht had been unearthed.
Mine worker Sathit Jankaew was also arrested. He was charged with colluding with others to mine without a licence, possess the mineral and encroach on forest land…