Officials from several ministries and provincial departments visited Chiphat commune in Koh Kong province yesterday to study the damage a proposed titanium mine in the area could have on the local economy and environment.
Koh Kong deputy governor Sun Dara said the delegation was made up of officials from the Council for the Development of Cambodia, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Environment, and 13 other ministries.
“The visit is to see how much [titanium] this mine has, where its location is and the [impact on] eco-tourism development in the area,” he said. “We have to find a balance.”
Cambodian company United Khmer Group is exploring the possibility of extracting titanium from an area covering 20,000 hectares in the middle of dense forest that includes 24 water sources flowing through three separate communes.
A thriving eco-tourism community that employs people from 150 families in Chiphat commune, many of whom previously depended on logging and hunting activities to survive, is also at stake.
Last month, Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun, Environment Minister Mok Mareth and Council for Agricultural and Rural Development Chairman Yim Chhay Ly visited Chiphat commune and promised locals the government would consider the value of the local economy and environment before agreeing to proceed with a mine in the area.
Mr Dara said the company had not yet provided substantial data on the amount of titanium resources in the area and that no mine would go ahead without this information.
“We won’t say whether we will cancel the eco-tourism project or continue with the mine until we have this data,” he said.
Several government officials said yesterday that they were unaware of who owned United Khmer Group. A man who answered the telephone of Industry, Mines and Energy Minister Suy Sem declined to comment.
Prom Heong, chief of the Community-based Ecotourism Committee in Chiphat commune, said nobody in the area supported the mine.
“Myself and other villagers cannot support the mine because the target area is overlapping the eco-tourism area,” he said.