The Mines and Energy Ministry on Thursday announced the winners of its public auction to award four sand dredging licenses along a stretch of the Mekong River where there is a buildup of silt.
Prime Minister Hun Sen tasked the ministry with overhauling the largely unregulated industry in February, a move followed by crackdowns on illegal dredging operations—blamed for riverbank collapses—and a push to license legitimate ones through a public tender process.
During a press conference at the Mines and Energy Ministry in Phnom Penh on Thursday, three firms—Jin Ling Construction, Khmer Anussa Corporation Co. Ltd. and Tan Kim Eng Co. Ltd.— were officially allocated four dredging lots, along with a stern warning.
“If the companies do their business outside of the lots, it will be against our law of mines, and the sentences have been stated clearly in that law,” said Dith Tina, the ministry’s spokesman.
Mr. Tina said that if any of the companies were caught dredging outside of their lots, their officials would face fines and even jail time.
Contacted later by telephone, Mr. Tina said that 14 lots had been issued to licensed companies on the Mekong since the industry came under the ministry’s purview.
“We will attach a GPS system [to the boats], so that if they are dredging outside the awarded lots, we will know,” he said, adding that inspectors would also conduct spot checks.
The ministry had previously said that of the 40 companies that initially expressed interest, 19 firms submitted a total of 30 bids for the four lots granted Thursday.
In May, the ministry imposed a price ceiling on river-dredged sand of $3.30 per cubic meter for dredging companies selling their hauls to depots.