The Hongsa project is a coal plant and mining project in Xayaboury Province, Laos, that includes a lignite coal mine, a 1878MW coal-fired power plant, a limestone quarry, and two dams. The coal-fired power plant is the first in Laos, and the lignite mine is one of the largest in Southeast Asia. Independent scientific experts say the project puts local communities at risk of developing cancer, respiratory problems, birth defects, and other ailments from contamination and air pollution. EarthRights is working with Chiang Mai University, and a network of Thai organizations called Thai Extraterritorial Obligation Watch to monitor the Hongsa project and other large Thai investments in the region.
The project risks releasing heavy metals into local water supplies and damaging the wilderness that local communities rely on for their food and livelihoods. The project also poses significant transboundary impacts. A set of transmission lines from Hongsa into Nan province, Thailand, have already been built through sensitive forest areas. Two more sets of power lines are set to be built in the coming years. Additionally, the operation risks contaminating lakes that extend into Thailand with mercury. As with any coal-fired power project, it also contributes significantly to climate change and represents a threat to human rights and climate justice. The environmental impact assessment for the project involved no meaningful consultation with the affected communities and failed to assess any transboundary impacts.
Independent science and legal analysis are provided to affected communities in both Thailand and Laos affected by the Hongsa project. The Hongsa mine and power plant are 80 percent Thai-owned, with the rest owned by Lao companies. Nine Thai banks financed the project. Both the Thai companies and banks have US investors backing them. EarthRights works with a coalition of Thai NGOs and CSOs, calling for transparency and accountability for Thai outbound investment. Communities in Nan province have submitted a complaint regarding the transboundary impacts of the project and its transmission lines to the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand.