More than 500 families from Mondulkiri province’s Keo Seima district protested on Saturday in a renewed call to be allowed to mine for gold at depths of more than 20 metres.
The families, rallying in Chong Plas commune, also accused a Chinese firm of destroying their mine shafts.
Last year, provincial governor Svay Sam Eng wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen asking him to convince the Mines and Energy Ministry to grant villagers permission to dig for gold at depths of more than 20 metres in Keo Seima district.
He said 961 families in the commune had been banned from digging deeper than 20 metres since 2015, when most of 2,000 hectares of land was given to the Rong Chheng company.
Villager Te Kiman said the villagers were left with only 43 hectares.
“Recently, the company came to destroy our four mine shafts,” Mr Kiman said. “That is why we are protesting again. We could not remain silent.”
He added that the villagers were insisting again that the government allow them to dig deeper than 20 metres. He said the villagers would move from the village if they could not do anything to make a living.
“Those areas could be mined to support our lives. The land cannot be used to plant crops,” he said.
Commune chief Lim Kun said more than 2,000 families in the commune depended on mining to support themselves.
He said villagers had protested and made demands many times, but their suggestions had always been turned down.
The villagers on Saturday came to Chong Plas commune parading and holding banners and pictures of the Prime Minister and his wife, calling on them to intervene because there had still been no solution to their problems and because the government had allowed the company to dig in their area over the last few years.
San Darith, director of the provincial mines department, said the villagers also demanded to use mine blasting techniques to locate gold ore.
Oum Chheang Lim, a commune community chief, said that after the protest, officials promised to meet villagers and receive a petition today.
“We don’t know what they will decide or whether they will accept our suggestions,” he said.