About 70 officials raided four illegal gold mines in Kompong Thom province’s Sandan district on Wednesday but made no arrests as all the camps had been abandoned, officials said on Thursday.
Tuot Mory, a district councilor, said the joint operation—including police, military police, soldiers and local government officials—raided four separate locations on the Phnom Chi mountain in Prey Lang forest.
“Yesterday, provincial court prosecutor Ith Sothea led about 70 officials from a joint committee of departments to raid illegal gold mines on Phnom Chi mountain,” Mr. Mory said, adding the locations were each separated by 2 to 3 km.
“Our purpose is to prevent anarchic gold mines. We have not arrested any people in that area because they had already gone before the officials arrived there,” he said.
Mr. Mory said he believed the illegal miners had been tipped off about the investigation and fled the mines as recently as last week.
“We found a small excavator, shelters and some holes that were abandoned two years ago, and some other holes that may have been abandoned last week,” Mr. Mory said, adding the miners left a trail of destruction in their wake.
“I think this kind of work seriously affects the environment because they used a kind of acid and it flows into lakes with the rain,” he said.
The explosives used to open the mines also caused damage to the mountain and the groups are thought to have logged luxury timber in the area when the mines were depleted, Mr. Mory said.
Officials are searching for the suspected mastermind of the operation, a local man named Lim Teng, he added.
Ith Sothea, the provincial prosecutor, said he had instructed officials to build a case file on the mines in order to identify additional suspects.
“I am waiting for the experts to send that case to me first…. We will call those people for questioning,” he said.