In an attempt to provide greater transparency, the Mines and Energy Ministry said it had announced publicly for the first time a call for applications for mining exploration licenses.
A statement posted to the ministry’s Facebook page on Sunday invites both local and international companies to compete for licenses to explore four areas totaling 52,567 hectares in the provinces of Kratie, Mondolkiri, Kompong Thom and Kampot for metals. Applications close on May 30 and winners will be announced on June 15, says the statement, which was signed by Mines and Energy Minister Suy Sem on April 18.
Ministry spokesman Meng Saktheara said the ministry has previously granted licenses without announcing them. But the ministry has been attempting to reform since being split off from the then-Industry, Mines and Energy Ministry after the 2013 national elections, he said.
The latest exploration licenses being granted were the first under the newly created ministry, Mr. Saktheara said.
“The ministry postponed granting new licenses until now,” he said. “We’ve organized new procedures by reforming the previous procedure. All granting of licences for exploration has to be published publicly.”
The public announcements inform concerned parties and allow them to file complaints if there are issues related to the new areas, he said.
Mr. Saktheara said a further reform was to exempt areas from exploration if it was likely to cause environmental or social damage.
The procedures were meant “to push for changes in the mining business to hold it accountable for the economy, environment and society,” he said.
There are currently about 60 to 70 active mining licenses, down from 200 to 300 before the ministry revoked inactive licenses as part of its reforms, he added.