Kratie provincial authorities on Wednesday cracked down on six illegal gold mining operations in Sambor district’s Kbal Domrey commune.
The operation involved provincial mine and energy officials, and police and military police who were led by deputy prosecutor Thuch Panhchak Santepheap.
Sok Kirirath, director of the provincial mines and energy department, said that illegal gold mining in the area has gone on for too long. He noted that despite several raids to shutter operations in the past, illegal mining still continues discreetly.
“The mining operations are dangerous and in the past many lives were lost due to deadly fumes released during pumping work at mining wells,” Mr Kirirath said.
He noted that he had requested funding from the provincial governor and provincial prosecutor for operations to destroy the gold mine wells in the area.
“We destroyed six gold mine wells,” he said. “If we catch anyone digging more wells to mine gold illegally, we will take action against them.”
Soum Sarith, Sambor district governor, said yesterday that he sent his officials to crack down on the illegal gold mining operations. He noted that people have been mining for gold illegally since the 1980s.
“About five years ago, six or seven miners died and the Ministry of Mines and Energy closed down an illegal gold mine in the area,” Mr Sarith said. “But people discreetly started mining for gold there again.”
He noted that only a Chinese company has a license to mine gold legally in the commune, but suddenly stopped its activities five years ago. Mr Sarith said the company, whose name he can’t remember, resumed operations recently.
Pen Lynat, deputy governor and a provincial spokesman, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
On October 17, Kratie provincial mines and energy officials shuttered five illegal gold mining operations in the same area where Wednesday’s crackdown took place.
In May, nearly 30 illegal gold mining operations were shuttered in Mondulkiri province after Mines and Environment Ministry officials investigated a poisoning incident where 13 villagers were killed downstream in Kratie province.
Nearly 300 villagers fell ill in Chetr Borei district after water in the Prek Ter stream became contaminated.
About 80 villagers in Mondulkiri province were also hospitalised because of poisoning in the water upstream.