Artisanal Gold Miners Spared Eviction at OZ Minerals Gold Site

Today’s eviction deadline for 69 families allegedly involved in illegal gold mining operations in Mondolkiri province, where the Australian miner OZ Minerals is currently exploring, will not be enforced, officials said yesterday.

Local authorities have instead cut off the supply of chemical substances used in the gold extraction process in order to push villagers into leaving the site, Keo Seima district governor Sin Vanvuth said.

“We will not violently evict, relocate or sue the villagers,” Mr Vanvuth said, adding that food items and other daily supplies will still be allowed into the area. “We are taking softer measures of cutting off the supply of chemicals to the exploration area.”

On June 10, authorities visited families in Keo Seima district for the third time and told them to leave the area. A final eviction date was later set for June 30.

Villagers have so far refused to move and have demanded compensation and a resettlement plan from the government.

Mr Vanvuth said that no compensation package had yet been approved but that families with no home or land title elsewhere in the country would stand a chance of being granted residency rights in the commune.

“But they are not allowed to carry out gold mining operations,” he said.

In May, the government announced it would step up measures to crack down on illegal mining operations in Cambodia and also said it would take measures to legalize some artisanal mining operations.

Chung Phlas commune chief Leat Limkun said around five commune police officers had been stationed within the OZ Minerals concession area to make sure that illegal gold mining activities are stopped.

“But I hope the firm [OZ Minerals] gives the families a chance for employment because they are pretty poor and have no job to go to,” he said.

Sam Sarin, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said some of the miners were operating sites using proper drilling equipment rather than chemicals.

“Civil society just hopes that those families can get compensation to start a new life elsewhere,” he said. “To cut off their supplies is a soft yet cold measure.”

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