Authorities in Mondolkiri province have given more than ten gold mining sites within the Chong Phlas Mining Community 15 days to shut down operations after concluding that they were not following the law.
The 15-day deadline was issued during a compliance push being carried out by Mines and Environment ministry officials in the wake of a poisoning case in Kratie province that left 13 people dead in Chetr Borei district, where villagers blamed gold mining run-off for the deaths despite the government officially stating that herbicide run-off and methanol-laced rice wine were to blame.
Mondolkiri deputy governor Choeng Sochantha, who joined the provincial working group to inspect mining operations, said that more than ten locations were given the deadline to cease all mining-related activities.
“We set the deadline at 15 days for more than ten gold mining places to shutdown because they broke the law,” Mr Sochantha said without explaining what laws were broken. “Our forces will go down there again and if they have not shut themselves down, our forces will do it for them,” he added.
Mr Sochantha noted that the working group left Chong Phlas commune on Saturday.
Lev Vibol, police chief of Chong Phlas commune, confirmed that officials with the working group issued the ultimatum to members of the gold mining community.
Te Kimsan, chief of the Chong Phlas Gold Mining Community, declined to comment yesterday, saying he was “too busy”. Repeated phone calls to the chief then went unanswered.
However, Mr Kimsan said last month as the compliance push began that his mining community followed the law and that the miners operating using dangerous, illegal methods were outside his jurisdiction.
Nearly 30 illegal gold mining operations outside the Chong Phlas Gold Mining Community, where about 800 families mine on 43 hectares of land, were shuttered last month during the compliance push.
Ly Seang Leng, a community gold miner, said yesterday that he received an order to cease all operations and leave the premises by the middle of this month.
“I don’t know whether they will allow me to continue to mine or not,” Mr Sean Leng said. “I think when the authorities do this [closures] it will impact all villagers living in the community because this is our the main source of income.”
He added that he is appealing to the authorities to keep the operations active or the result could be political in nature.
“It will impact the election in this commune,” Mr Sean Leng said. “If the government do not allow villagers to operate gold mines here, then there will be protests in the future.”
A villager, who asked not to be named fearing repercussions, said that it seemed authorities were intent on closing down the entire mining community.
“The authorities should not do this to the community because most of the villagers here rely on gold mining operations to eke out a living,” the villager said.
Meanwhile, the compliance push has also put pressure on a Chinese company working in the area.
Lor Sokha, provincial police chief, told his subordinates during a meeting over the weekend that Rong Cheng, a Chinese company, must also be scrutinised regarding its handling of explosives following local media reports.
“We will cooperate with the provincial military officials to control the explosives,” Mr Sokha said.
Mou Lun You, a construction manager with Rong Cheng, confirmed that authorities made a visit to his company on Friday and warned them about the mishandling of explosives.
“The provincial authority just told the company to build a new warehouse to store the explosives because the old warehouse was made of wood,” he said. “The company will build a new warehouse.”