Green efforts go unheard

In addition to the environmental requirements for lead smelter to ensure no lead contamination reached the public, the government has also announced an incentive plan to encourage lead smelters to upgrade their facilities to closed systems that prevent the leakage of lead content into the environment. Under the regulation, battery manufacturers that use locally recycled lead from designated smelters have been eligible since April 2001 for a 5% cut in excise tax on their products.
     As a result, Thai Metals Smelting Industry Co (TMSI), which smelts secondary lead from used car batteries, has invested more than 150 million baht to import Swedish technology and redesign its buildings.
     Boliden Contech AB installed a rotary furnace and oxygen burner at TMSI factory in Ratchaburi six months ago, making the company the first in Thailand with a processing system that meets international standards.
     But while the Swedish technology is among the best in the world, TMSI has not been able to reap the benefits of its investment due to government regulations.
     Two years after the regulation was announced, TMSI is still waiting to have its application to be a designated smelter approved. Without the designation, Mr. Hakkhiang Sae Lim, managing director of TMSI said, the company could not sell its products because its prices would not be competitive.
     He added that he has done everything according to the law and he could not understand why his application has not been approved even though some officials said his factory’s standard was above the requirements for Thailand.
     The company has piles of lead bars ready to sell but no client wants to buy them without the documentation needed to make the buyer eligible for the lower excise tax.
     TMSI has the capacity to produce 10,000 tonnes of lead annually. The lead is sold at 24,000 to 25,000 baht per tonne, producing an annual revenue of nearly 250 million baht.
     Four lead smelters have received temporary approval even though their standards were not yet up to the requirements as they still had open systems, said an official from the Industrial Works Department.
     Mr. Hakkhiang also urged the government to strictly examine all smelters to see whether they complied with the requirements in order to create a level playing field for the industry.
     “Now, we cannot compete with those smelters because they have had almost no costs in improving their factories. If we start selling our products, they will immediately dump prices in the market,” Mr Hakkhiang said bitterly.

Original story by Somporn Thapanachai, Bangkok Post at

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