More than 30 families in Kompong Cham province’s Memot district are complaining that toxic waste from a gold mine in the area has polluted an irrigation canal used for watering rice fields.
Villagers said yesterday that a wealthy miner from Suong City, whom they identified as Meng, had mined in the area until recently causing chemicals to run into the canal system, a claim provincial authorities denied.
“We want the miner to remove the waste from the canal because it has affected our rice fields,” said Troeng Lavy, a farmer in Choam Tamao commune. He said that a huge pile of chemical waste that measures about 60 square meters had started flowing into the irrigation system during the rainy season.
Im Yoth, another farmer, said he had been forced to abandon about a third of his 1.5-hectare plot of farmland because toxic chemicals had flowed into the water supply.
Huong Sothea, provincial monitor for rights group Adhoc, said that chemical waste had affected about 36 hectares of farmland and claimed that provincial authorities had asked an unnamed miner to stop operations in September after villages complained about the chemical waste.
But Suon Dy, director of the provincial department of industry, mines and energy, said yesterday that there had been no mining activities recently and blamed illegal operations conducted during the 1990s.
“It was old waste from the 1990s when people anarchically mined for gold,” he said.