Copper Mine Project Linked to 2-Star General

Major General Nem Meng of the Royal Cambodian Army is a stakeholder in a copper company set to acquire a mining license in Siem Reap province, according to an official in the province.

Khlauk Sina, director of the pro­vincial department of industry, mines and energy, said yesterday that there was only one firm looking for copper operating in the province, and that the firm had been carrying out exploration activities for about three months in Chi Kreng district’s Khvav commune.

“This copper firm is privately owned by Cambodian and Chi­nese investors. Its name is Nem Meng Group,” said Mr Sina. “For the Cam­bodian-owned side, the firm is owned by His Excellency Nem Meng, a two-star general in the army.”

In announcing the project on Monday, government officials re­leased only scant details on what could soon be Cambodia’s first large-scale industrial mining operation.

Maj Gen Meng was unavailable for comment yesterday. An environment official in the province said yesterday that he was unaware of any impact assessment performed in advance of the project, which may be licensed as early as next week.

Such an environmental assessment is required for a license. Ung Seng, Cabinet chief at the environment ministry, said yesterday that he could provide no information on the existence of an impact assessment.

However, Mr Sina of the provincial administration also confirmed that the firm was in the process of seeking an extraction license from the government as exploration activities had already been undertaken.

“This firm used new and expensive technology for the exploration of underground minerals, which is why the firm has found copper very quickly,” he said.

He added that while he was un­aware of the exact size of the company’s exploration area, none of the land fell inside a protected area. He also said he could not remember the name of the Chinese company but that it did not belong to the Chinese government.

The amount of copper suggested to be in the area by Mr Prasidh—13 million tons to be extracted over 50 years—is an enormous amount even compared to the some of the largest operations already in the region.

The Sepon copper and gold operations in Laos, the region’s largest copper mine, produce approximately 65,000 tons of copper and 90,000 ounces of gold annually, respectively, according to the website of the mine’s owner, China Minmetals Corp. Total copper reserves are be­lieved to be at about 6 million tons.

Richard Stanger, president of the Cambodian Association of Mining and Exploration and managing director of Australian mining firm Liberty Mining International, declined to comment directly on the Siem Reap project but said that extensive studies were necessary to estimate the size of any resource.

“For a production license to be granted, they should have done a feasibility study and, secondly, an [Environmental Impact Assess­ment] study,” he said. “It would also involve a lot of geological assessment and calculation of the resource size. That process is a fairly expensive process.”

He added that a feasibility study would involve “a lot of drilling” and could often take years to complete.

Despite claims by the government that the company has carried out exploration activities and is perhaps mere days away from receiving a production license, civil society groups including the Extractive Industry Social and Environmental Impact Network, said

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