Mining authorities in Ratanakkiri province said yesterday they had ordered the closure of an illegal mining operation in O’Yadaw district where an Australian firm has an exploration license.
Officials from the provincial Forestry Administration and the provincial department of industry, mines and energy visited the operational site of Land Joint Stock International Corporation Co Ltd (JSIC) on Monday and discovered the firm was operating two mining sites in the area.
Hun Bunthan, deputy director of the provincial mining department, said the firm had set up operations at the site where Australian mining firm Liberty Mining International is exploring for gold and had been asked to move to their own 181-sq-km exploration zone, located nearby in the same district.
“Any firm that is found guilty of abusing its exploration license must be immediately ordered to stop its activities,” Mr Bunthan said. “The firm is yet to start extraction, but it wrongly moved into an exploration zone that the government has granted to an Australian firm.”
Mr Bunthan added that the company must move all machinery in the area this week, and the provincial mining department will draw an updated map to outline all exploration sites in the area.
Provincial mineral director Hem Vunthan said JSIC had heavy-duty equipment on-site that could be used to extract gold.
“We ordered the workers at the two mining operation sites to stop all activities immediately,” he said.
Richard Stanger, managing director for Liberty International Mining, said that illegal mining operations on his firm’s exploration area were common and that he was relieved to see the government take such firm action.
“It causes us a lot of headaches. They make an awful mess,” he said.
Mr Stanger also said that JSIC had written to the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy to explain that informal miners operating under their company’s name were carrying out illegal activities in the area.
An official at JSIC, who declined to give his name, said nobody from his company had conducted operations outside of its own exploration zone.
“My company’s exploration workers are not in that area,” he said.
District military police commander Sok Min said there were at least five illegal mining firms employing experts from Vietnam carrying out operations in O’Yadaw district.
“Those mineral companies are anything but cooperative, as they only claim to have licenses for mineral exploration,” he said.