Gov’t Postpones $15 Million Koh Kong Mine

An interministerial committee has postponed approval of a new mine in Koh Kong province to en­sure that the company that submitted the proposal does not mere­ly want to conduct illegal logging, officials said Wednesday.

“They have to come out with a report and specific plan on how many hectares of trees will be cut and where the money will go,” said Kong Vibol, first secretary of state for the Finance Ministry.

Kong Vibol’s comments came at a Cambodian Investment Board “one window” investment review meeting.

Samnang Rea Thbong Thmor Co Ltd has proposed to invest $15 mil­lion in a new mining operation in Koh Kong province to extract il­menite, a compound from which titanium can be extracted, according to documents distributed at the meeting.

The joint Khmer-Australian company had signed a memorandum of understanding with the gov­ernment on March 4 giving it per­mission to study and search for the mineral for six months in Ou Tatok commune in Thma Bang district, the documents said.

The operation would employ 325 people, including 15 foreigners, the documents said.

But the officials at the meeting put off making a decision until of­ficials could visit the site and an environmental and social impact assessment could be completed.

According to a report from en­vironmental NGO WildAid submitted to the committee, the proposed mine is outside the borders of nearby protected forests but is within the boundaries of a permanent

forest reserve.

As a result, the organization called for proper environmental impact studies and all necessary precautions to protect the environment and restore any damage caused by the company but did not oppose the operation.

Kong Vibol said there was not enough information to decide whether the company should be allowed to set up a mine in Koh Kong.

“The interministerial committee does not have enough basic information,” he said before urging a group headed by the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy to visit the site and prepare a report.

Delphine Vann Roe, WildAid deputy country director, said staff from the NGO have not been out to see the site yet but the company’s actions would be watched.

“Properly conducted, mining is not that destructive,” she said. “If it’s well managed it’s okay. But it needs to be closely monitored.”

Koh Kong provincial Governor Yuth Phouthang said Wednesday that he has already spoken to WildAid about the possible environmental impacts and would be working with the group.

“If the company can find mines, it will allow our resources to be developed in my province and nation,” he said. “But if the company destroys our environment, it will have to be responsible.”

He said he did not know if there was ilmenite in Koh Kong. The mineral is mined in Thailand and Malaysia.

In recent months, reports of new mining operations in Ratanakkiri, Kompong Speu and Stung Treng have surfaced.

World Bank country manager Nisha Agrawal said Wednesday that as with economic land and forest concessions, donors have called on the government to make public all information on existing mining concessions. So far that request hasn’t been met, she said.

Sok Chenda, CDC secretary-general, said the government wants to see more investment in mineral and gem mining to boost the economy but needs the various ministries involved to work together to make it possible.

“We want to have investment,” Sok Chenda said during the meeting. “One ministry can’t work alone. If [investors] ask CDC about minerals, we do not know the answers.”

Donors and NGOs have in the past criticized the government for the practice of handing out exploration licenses. They argue the licenses are often used by companies to conduct full-blown operations without having to pay taxes.

The mining companies have also been blamed for polluting local water sources, destroying forests and grabbing villagers’ land.

But so far, several NGOs and international donors said Wednesday, there has not yet been any concentrated look at mining in Cambodia and its consequences or potential benefit.


Related Stories

Latest News