Villagers Sue Gold Mine Over Cattle Deaths

Dozens of villagers filed a complaint with Kratie provincial court last week demanding compensation and an investigation into whether water polluted by mining operations poisoned their cattle, rights workers and court officials said Tuesday.

Some 45 villagers and officials from the Koh Khnhe commune council in Sambo district filed a complaint against Chhneang Samkhann, who operated a gold mine in the commune, said Prak Sarann, Adhoc human rights coordinator for Kratie province.

The complaint came after 14 cows belonging to Uk Savy, first deputy chief for the commune council, were found dead Sept 30 near a 50-square-meter site abandoned by Chhneang Sam­khann this year, Prak Sarann said.

Villagers suspected the cows died after drinking contaminated water from the site and are waiting for the results of tests to confirm that the area is poisoned, he said.

“If the water tests positive for pollutants, Chhneang Samkhann should be punished and should pay compensation to villagers who lost their cattle,” Prak Sarann said. The villagers also asked in their complaint that Chhneang Sam­khann fence off the mine and fill it.

Prak Sarann and provincial officials said they did not have contact data for Chhneang Sam­khann.

Kratie Prosecutor Penh Vibol said he received the complaint Monday and was still reviewing it. He is also waiting for the results of water tests undertaken by the Ministry of Environment, before proceeding with the case.

Iv Samith, director of the Kratie Industry Mine and Energy De­part­ment, said Chhneang Sam­khann closed the mine in April after villagers complained. Chem­icals are often used to separate gold from rock, he said, but he did not know if the water is polluted.

An Oxfam America report re­leas­ed in August on gold mining in Cambodia said poor practices and lack of government oversight has led to increasing damage on the local environment and villagers’ health and livelihoods.


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