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Cambodia: Mining near wildlife sanctuary causes concern

Published by MAC on 2016-06-07
Source: Phnom Penh Post (2016-06-01)

Mining near Mondulkiri wildlife sanctuary worries organisation

Yesenia Amaro and Bun Sengkong

http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/mining-near-mondulkiri-wlidlife-sanctuary-worries-organisation

1 June 2016

An environmental NGO has raised concerns about potential impacts to Mondulkiri province’s Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary from a possible large-scale gold mining operation in the area.

The government, however, says that the companies involved are working hard to stave off any potential negative effects.

World Wildlife Fund Cambodia spokesman Un Chakrey said that the proposed gold mine could put several endangered and critically threatened species, such as elephants and bantengs, at risk along with other wildlife.

It also increased opportunities for illegal poaching and the likelihood of potential destruction of natural water resources and habitat if roads are built for transportation.

“We really think that the mining is very dangerous for the wildlife and habitat,” Chakrey said. “However, we will work hand-in-hand with the government and the companies [involved in the project] to ensure there’s no impact.”

Australian companies Renaissance Minerals Cambodia Limited and Emerald Resources have been conducting exploration work in Mondulkiri and are now applying for an industrial-mining licence, according to Ministry of Mines and Energy spokesman Meng Saktheara.

Neither company responded to requests for comment by press time. Saktheara said that the mining companies were operating inside the buffer zone of the protected area, where activity was allowed.

However, he added, a careful environmental impact assessment still needed to be done. The minister of mines and energy and the minister of environment have both visited the site recently.

The biggest gold deposit in the country – 1.2 million ounces of gold – was found in the area, Satkheara added.

“It could have a significant economic impact for the country, but at the same time, it’s so close to a protected area,” he said.

The WWF Cambodia is working with Renaissance Minerals on the environmental impact assessment, but the NGO had not seen any study yet, Chakrey said.

Sok Rotha, Mondulkiri provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said that mining always had consequences for the environment and affected the safety of both workers and any people that were living nearby.


Illegal Mining Continues in Ratanakiri

Chea Vannak

Khmer Times - http://www.khmertimeskh.com/news/26686/illegal-mining-continues-in-ratanakiri/

30 June 2016

Despite claims from local authorities that illegal mining in Ratanakiri province’s Borkeo district had been stopped, more than 100 people have been seen continuing to mine the area.  
 
Miners, most of them from Kampong Cham, Prey Veng and Kampong Thom provinces, were seen digging in rubber plantation fields in Borkeo district. Police and provincial mining officials told reporters they stopped the mining business and had “educated” illegal miners, local media outlet ThmeyThmey reported.
 
Borkeo district deputy police chief Saing Sok defended his actions, telling Khmer Times yesterday that the number of people digging mines was down since strict procedures from the mine ministry took affect after authorities “educated” them.
 
“The mine diggers have been digging and doing other activities for years on abandoned land or on rubber plantations,” Mr. Sok said. “After a search, we do not see the large numbers of illegal mine diggings anymore.”

ThmeyThmey reported the illegal miners were hired by land and rubber plantation owners and were not being paid. They were given no tools and asked to use traditional methods to unearth valuable minerals, with the land owners offering them a cut of whatever they managed to find. Spokesman for the Ministry of Mines and Energy Meng Saktheara said the ministry had not received any reports of mining activity in Ratanakiri province.

The ministry then refuted its own previous statement, claiming there were anywhere from 100 to 150 miners remaining, but it was only being done on legally-licensed land.

“If we found that the rubber plantation owners hired people to dig mines underground, they will have to face the law,” Mr. Saktheara said, flip-flopping back to his original sentiment.

Even with widespread efforts by the government to cut down on small-time miners, Mr. Sok said his local police force could not effectively control the massive amount of illegal mining going on in the area, refuting his own earlier comments about a slowdown in mining activity. 

“With these cases, they dig in hidden areas. I don’t exactly know where because there are plenty of mine pits…and if we find we will stop them and educate them,” he said.

Mine accidents are frequent in Borkeo district due to the lack of regulations and proper equipment needed to safely dig in certain areas. Mines often collapse when hundreds of people gather in a single spot to search for precious materials, Mr. Sok said.

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