MAC: Mines and Communities

Cambodia may burn homes for Australian mine

Published by MAC on 2010-06-26
Source: ABC News, Statement (2010-06-22)

The Cambodian government has earned a questionable reputation in regard to its plans to increase revenue from the extractive industries (see, for example, the bribery accusations around BHP Billiton's 'tea money' - http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=10108).

London-based Global Witness has alleged that Cambodian earnings from natural resources, including minerals, are being 'jeopardised by high-level corruption, nepotism and patronage.' The Prime Minister, Hun Sen, has insisted that Cambodia does not have anything to learn with regard to transparency on these issues.

However, the real threat may well be to local communities who are standing (or rather living) in the way of proposed projects, like that of OZ Minerals' in the north-eastern province of Mondulkiri. Local NGOs have been reasonably requesting that all potential stakeholders be involved in the resolution of any disputes.

Cambodia may burn homes for Australian mine

By Zoe Daniel -South East Asia correspondent

ABC News

19 June 2010

The Cambodian government is threatening to burn the homes of almost 100 families who are living at the site of a gold deposit recently discovered by an Australian mining company.

The gold deposit that both exploration company OzMinerals and the Cambodian government are excited about lies in the remote Mondulkiri province, 500 kilometres from Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh.

After 17 years of exploration the government believes this could be the biggest find so far in Cambodia, yielding at least 600,000 ounces of gold.

But even in sparsely populated Mondulkiri, people are in the way.

"We've been told to move out immediately and return to where we came from", says Sear Kim Yean, a resident and representative of 95 families who are living on and around the exploration site.

The project is in its infancy and will not be viable as a mine unless OzMinerals can do more small scale drilling and sampling to see if it can yield more than two million ounces of gold.

The company says the local people do not have to move for the continuing exploration to take place, but as part of a larger government plan to clean up illegal mining, logging and poaching they have been told to go.

"We have no idea where to go," said Sear Kim Yean. "We have no money. They threatened to burn our homes down if we don't move, but so far nothing like that has happened. They offered us no compensation."

But the government says most of those living in the area do not deserve help because they are opportunists who have moved into the area to mine illegally and they are not locals.

"It is true that the authority has requested people who live there to move out. There are 95 families that need to be relocated; only five people are Mondulkiri people with proper documents. The rest have migrated from other provinces," said district chief Len Vanna.

The government says the residents have deliberately built their homes on land owned by OzMinerals and will not be compensated, and if they do not move the government will burn their homes or bulldoze them.

"If they are not moving, we will have to use legal procedure to move them," Mr Vanna said.

The Cambodian government is notorious for forcibly evicting residents to make way for development.

The United Nations has repeatedly raised concerns about tens of thousands of people who have been evicted in recent years with lack of due process, inadequate compensation and the excessive use of force.

Melbourne based OzMinerals says it has urged local authorities to treat the residents with respect and dignity.


EISEI Network Supports Community Calls for Peacefully Mediated Resolution to O'Kvav Resettlement

EISEI Network Press Release

22 June 2010

The Extractive Industry Social and Environmental Impact (EISEI) Network is calling for all stakeholders involved in the mineral exploration process in O'Kvav to agree to settle their concerns peacefully, with respect shown for all the viewpoints involved.

The EISEI Network, a coalition of Cambodian civil society and community groups, concerned with social and environmental impacts from the mining industry, has been following, and seeking resolution to, the current situation for the past three months. Recently, the EISEI Network became aware of threats made to the homes of the 69 families remaining in O'Kvav, in Mondulkiri Province, in the east of Cambodia. Upon receipt of this information, the EISEI Network sent a representative from Phnom Penh to investigate the issue further, and ask community members what role EISEI could take to help resolve the issue. Accordingly, the 69 families have prepared and signed a petition requesting government assistance with their situation. Specifically, the residents request assistance in identifying and relocating to an adequate alternative area to pursue their livelihoods.

The EISEI Network understands that all stakeholders have a role to play in resolving the issues related to the mineral extraction in O'Kvav. The EISEI Network believes it is not the intention of the remaining 69 families in O'Kvav to cause trouble by willfully violating the law. Rather, community members have indicated their willingness to leave the concession area, if they are permitted to enter into mediation with all stakeholders, to assist them to identify viable alternatives to eviction.

The EISEI Network supports the request of OZ Minerals Ltd that local authorities treat the residents of the O'Kvav area with respect and dignity. Similarly, EISEI welcomes the recent willingness of relevant Provincial level authorities of the Royal Government to consult with the EISEI Network. Furthermore we recognize the important potential role the Royal Government has in guiding all stakeholders towards a suitable solution for all affected stakeholders. The EISEI Network stands ready to assist in any fully collaborative effort to achieve a peaceful resolution to this issue.

Mr Mam Sambath
Chairperson
EISEI Steering Committee

 

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