Ignoring Law, Gov’t Grants Firm Right to Aural Preserve

The government has given a little-known company approval to look for mineral deposits over a 70-km area in Kompong Speu province’s Aural Wildlife Sanc­tuary, a move that is illegal under the government’s protected areas legislation.

According to a copy of a Memo­randum of Understand­ing—­signed by Industry, Mines and Energy Minister Suy Sem and Future Environment Ltd company Director Veng Heang on Nov 22—Future Environment has six months “to study the metal mine deposit, situated at Phnom Prak mountain, Aural district, Kom­pong Speu province.”

The agreement, which can be extended under some circumstances, states that the company cannot dig or drill on a large-scale. When it expires, the company has 30 days to submit a technical report. It can then apply for a valuable mineral exploration license.

But under Article 4 of Cam­bodia’s 1994 Declaration of Pro­tected Areas, the exploitation of minerals and use of explosives in a protected area is prohibited.

Ith Praing, secretary of state at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, and Kompong Speu province’s Environment Depart­ment director, Soeung Bunt­hoeurn said they were not aware of the agreement nor had they heard of Future Environment.

“Phnom Prak is in the protected area, and if they want to study …they must receive permission from the Environment Minister,” Soeung Bunthoeurn said. “So far, I have not received any letter regarding the study.”

Repeated calls this week to Minister Suy Sem and Environ­ment Minister Mok Mareth were unsuccessful.

News of the agreement was met with concern from organizations involved in the park, declared a protected area since 1993.

“It’s very disappointing,” said David Mueller, representative for Lutheran World Federation, which works with local communities in the Aural area.


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