In the article “Gold Mine Firms Pitch Happy Future, But Civil Society Wary” (February 1) Delayne Weeks, Angkor Gold’s vice president of social development, stated that “the company could not be blamed if its 1,291 square km of land under exploration encroached on wildlife sanctuaries that were announced after their purchase.”
—Letter to the Editor—
This statement from Ms. Weeks is factually incorrect. The Mondolkiri Protected Forest—now called Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary—was established by a sub-decree signed by the prime minister in July 2002. The western border of the sanctuary has not been changed since. Based on our knowledge, Angkor Gold received its exploration license in September 2013.
WWF-Cambodia is not saying that the exploration license in the protected area was granted illegally. The license could have been legally granted in Cambodia, as it is quite common for exploration licenses to be granted inside protected areas.
However, the statement from Angkor Gold that the protected area was created after the license was granted, or that they were not aware of the existence of the protected area’s border, is incorrect.
Angkor Gold attended the 2014 annual workshop of WWF- Cambodia where the borders of the protected areas of Mondolkiri were clearly presented. Most of Angkor Gold’s exploration activities occurred after this workshop, so it would be further incorrect to state that investments were made in ignorance of the location of the license inside a protected area.
Chhith Sam Ath
WWF country director