Prominent local businessman Mong Reththy says he is set to invest millions of dollars in a coal mining venture in Preah Vihear province.
The project—given preliminary approval by the government Friday with a memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, Mong Reththy’s company and his Thai partner—is to get underway early next year, he said last week.
There are still many details to be worked out, the entrepreneur said in an interview, including what percentage of profits would be paid to the government. The project will cost upwards of $55 million.
The coal mine, which would be the first in Cambodia, is located about 50 km north of Preah Vihear town near the Thai and Lao borders in an area known as Kbal Domrey. According to Mong Reththy, the 30-square-km coal deposit was discovered by the French in the 1950s and then again by the Chinese in the 1960s, but there were no investors prepared to mine it.
Provided that samples from the coal deposit now being tested in Thailand prove to be good, the company will begin construction on a 130-km highway that can support trucks hauling 70 tons of coal from the mine site to Thailand, he said. The company will also construct a power plant that will run on the coal from the mine. The electricity will be distributed in Siem Reap, Kompong Thom, Stung Treng and Preah Vihear provinces. Mong Reththy said it should reduce the price of power in those areas by as much as 50 percent.
Getting the coal from the deposit should be easy, he said. The coal is near the surface and the area is free of land mines. Finding employees for the mine might prove to be more difficult. Mong Reththy said the area is uninhabited and he hopes the government will help to resettle people who need jobs near the mine. Sok Leng, vice director for coal at the Industry Ministry, said Thursday he hopes the government can encourage more investments in the mining of coal, which can be a cheap source of fuel for factories.