An Australian and a British-born geologist seeking to mine Ratanakkiri province’s Virachey National Park have stepped down as directors of a Sydney mining firm amid a scandal arising from allegedly inappropriate in-flight antics, the company Jupiter Mines announced Aug 15.
The men, David Evans, 37, and Jeremy Snaith, 39, have received permission to conduct mineral research in the national park via another, newly-formed company, Battle Mountain Minerals, recently renamed Indochine Resources, a company representative and government officials revealed last month. Jupiter Mines—a mid-size mineral extraction firm—is a minority shareholder in Indochine Resources.
In letters to the Australian Securities Exchange Aug 15, Jupiter Mines announced that Snaith and Evans had tendered resignations in advance of a shareholder vote on whether to remove the pair.
Sydney solicitor Ross Hill, who represents Snaith and Evans, did not respond to e-mailed requests for comment Aug 15.
Industry, Mines and Energy Minister Suy Sem could not be contacted for comment. Other ministry officials either could not be reached or declined to comment.
Calls for the removal of Snaith and Evans, since dubbed “bananas in pajamas” in the Australian press, arose following their June conviction in a United Arab Emirates court after the pair allegedly became unruly on an April Etihad Airways flight from Sydney. Fellow passengers claimed the incident involved inappropriate antics before the pair donned first-class pajamas, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. The men have denied any wrongdoing.
According to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the unlisted Battle Mountain, which maintained an office until recently at the Phnom Penh Hotel, changed its name last month to Indochine Resources.
Indochine’s directors include Robert Coghill, a fellow passenger on the Etihad Airways flight, and UAE resident Christopher Eddy, according to ASIC.
Seng Sovathana, environment program coordinator at NGO Forum, said Aug 15 that opening Virachey National Park to mineral prospectors demonstrated the government’s weakening commitment to conservation.
“If they protect, they shouldn’t allow the Australian firm to explore the park,” he said. “I think in reality it’s not really protected anymore.”
Chhay Samith, director of the Environment Ministry’s nature conservation and protection department, could not be reached.
(Additional reporting by Kay Kimsong)