Illegal rare earth mine raided

SARABURI - An illegal operation mining rare earth metals was raided on Tuesday after the Customs Department earlier detained nine containers containng 200 tonnes of mis-labelled dickite worth around 100 million baht.

Customs officials said the exporter wrongly declared the consignment as pyrophyllite, which attracts a royalty of only 14-baht per tonne. Dickite, a rare earth, sells for 300,000-500,000 baht a tonne but its mining is not allowed here and therefore no royalty is set.  

Authorities tracked down the owner of the shipment, Pattara Charoen Mining Co. The company obtained the dickite from a mine in tambon Cha-om of Kaeng Khoi district.

Officials of the Department of Primary Industries and Mines,  along with a team of soldiers and police, went to inspect the mine. They found it was an old mine and that its licence had expired in 2007. The owner, Chapoen Pattarakulkachorn, had sought permission to mine dickite, but the application was not approved.

However, the company still employed workers to mine the dickite for export to China. 

The raiding team found no workers or mining machinery, just a warehouse and a conveyor belt used for moving ore. The mine also encoraches on the forest, officials said.

Wichien Phutiwinyou, Saraburi governor, said the mine covered almost 64 rai of land, Its licence had expired on Nov 29, 2007. The province was ordered by the Naitonal Council for Peace and Order to inspect the site. Further investigation will follow.

Dickite is a whitish, crystalised clay mineral used in ceramics, paints, rubber, plastics and glossy paper.

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