Illegal Gold Mines Raided in Preah Vihear

Authorities in Preah Vihear province on Friday broke up six camps they say were being used to illegally mine for gold on land the government has granted to a Chinese company.

Provincial industry and mines director Kong Makara said Sunday that authorities including local police and military police raided the camps in Rovieng district following a complaint from WS Mining Industry Holding, which he said was granted an exploration license over 97,000 hectares in 2007.

A generator and a drill were confiscated from the small-scale miners, he said, while other equipment was destroyed at the scene and camps burned.

“We destroyed these machines at the scene because it would have been difficult to remove,” he said.

Mr. Makara said the Chinese mining company was also advised to beef up security to prevent the illegal operators from coming back.

“We instructed the company to put security guards on the land to prevent these people from returning because we are civil service officials and have no weapons to resist the illegal miners,” who are often armed with homemade rifles, he said.

District governor Ea Saro, who joined the operation on Friday, said no arrests were made because the camps were all found empty. He said the miners, probably three or four per camp, likely got wind of the raids in advance.

“We will cooperate [with] the provincial industry and mines department to find the leaders of the six camps and hold them accountable before the law,” he said, adding that more raids would follow on at least four other known camps in the district that are also on the Chinese company’s land.

“We cracked down on the six locations this time and we will continue with the other locations soon,” Mr. Saro said.

WS Mining could not be reached for comment.

The area has seen disputes between large- and small-scale miners for many years. Some local villagers say they have depended on artisanal mining operations to make a living for a long time, in some cases before the companies were granted rights to the land.

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