Sanctioned timber baron wins new mining concessions in Cambodia’s Prey Lang

A freeze announced late last year on new mining operations in Cambodia’s Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary comes with a massive loophole that benefits one of the country’s highest-profile deforesters.

“I would like to announce to the public and the journalists that on November 2, the Ministry of Mines and Energy requested [Prime Minister Hun Manet] not to expand mining operations nor seek further mining business in Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary,” Keo Rattanak, Cambodia’s minister of mines and energy, said at a press conference on Nov. 21, 2023.

According to Rattanak, Manet accepted the request the same day it was made, “demonstrating [Manet’s] will to preserve Prey Lang” by essentially freezing the issuance of new mining licenses inside the hotly contested sanctuary. The ban will also reassess existing mining concessions in Prey Lang, returning land not used for mining purposes to the state, Rattanak added. It will also prevent companies currently mining the roughly 490,000-hectare (1.2-million-acre) protected forest from expanding their concessions.

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