The Siem Reap provincial department of mines and energy on Thursday ordered the temporary suspension of operations of a Chinese copper-mining firm that was caught transporting 40 tons of copper to Phnom Penh, though their licenses expired more than a year ago.
The two licenses for the 36-square-km Meng Sing Hong Fa copper mine in Chi Kreng district, owned by Chinese national Nem Meng, expired on October 27, 2014, district governor Poeu Bunthoeun said on Sunday.
“We shut down the firm temporarily because their licenses have expired,” he said, adding that the company had tried to transport two trucks loaded with copper to Phnom Penh, but were stopped in Kompong Thom province “sometime last month,” though he couldn’t remember the date.
“The Kompong Thom provincial authorities stopped the trucks and confiscated their loads of copper because the company did not have a permission letter for transportation,” he said.
While Mr. Bunthoeun referred to the closure as temporary, Meng Saktheara, a spokesman for the Ministry of Mines and Energy, said it would not be issuing new licenses.
“We will not renew the company’s licences because they broke the law when they tried to sneak the copper to Phnom Penh in an attempt to export it to China,” he said.
Mr. Saktheara explained that the Kompong Thom provincial mines and energy department had filed a complaint with the provincial court against the company after stopping the two trucks, which are currently impounded at the department’s office.
“We are now waiting for the decision of the court because the legal procedure requires the confiscation of the company’s property,” he said, adding that he was unsure how long the process would take.
The Law on Mineral Resource Management and Exploitation sets the punishment for “conducting mining operations with an expired mining license” as up to five years in prison, a fine of up to 10 million riel (about $2,500), and the seizure of all production equipment and machinery.
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