K Thom Residents Blame Mine for Illnesses

Several villagers living in Sandan district, Kompong Thom province, have fallen ill in the past year and have reported deaths among their livestock after drinking water that officials say is contaminated by chemical runoff from nearby gold mines.

But Nhiek Kunthea, director of the provincial office of Industry, Mines and Energy, denied the al­le­gations, saying tests showed the water at Phnom Chi mountain is at an acceptable pH level.

Deputy Provincial Environ­ment Director Heng Huot said that Neoneer Cambodia Co Ltd, a Korean firm licensed to mine on Phnom Chi, violated the terms of its license by dumping about 10 kg of acid powder into the water every day to shift gold.

The water was so contaminated that a frog jumping into it would immediately begin to dissolve, Heng Huot said. He did not say if he had tested the proposition.

The contamination has de­creased since October, Heng Huot said, when a number of provincial authorities, including military police and the Office of Mines and Energy, prevented the miners from using acid. Miners were also using dynamite, he said.

Nhiek Kunthea said he did not think acid or other illegal mining methods had been used.

But another top Kompong Thom official, who requested anonymity, said the mining situation on Phnom Chi is still out of control, and accused other aut­horities of taking money from the miners to ignore the problems.

In October, the Office of In­dus­try tested the water immediately above the mine shafts and in several spots downstream, and took pH readings between 6.2 and 6.3, Nhiek Kunthea said. A pH reading of 7 is neutral, below 7 is acidic and above 7 is al­kaline. A pH level of 4 is considered hazardous, officials have said.

, however most ground water sources are slightly more acidic.

Nhiek Kunthea said, Neoneer plans to leave the area because gold deposits are not as abundant as expected.

 

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