Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday reminded people that he had rejected a proposed Titanium mining investment worth about $20 billion in Koh Kong province because the project would devastate a huge swathe of forests and endanger wildlife.
Speaking during the Sea Festival in the province, Mr Hun Sen said that sometime ago the Mines and Energy Ministry first raised a proposal related to the investment in Thmar Baing district’s Chi Phat commune which was worth not less than $22 billion.
He said he rejected it to protect the forest, wildlife and the environment.
“I decided not to allow the Titanium investment after I studied and found that before mining for Titanium worth about $20 billion we will have to lose about 20,000 hectares of forest land which is home to rare species of wildlife, including elephants,” Mr Hun Sen said.
“Mining for Titanium will also have an environmental impact with the sea being turned red instead of being blue and that is why I decided against the investment,” he added.
Mr Hun Sen said that two months after he made the decision, there was a new request from the company concerned.
“They said that if we did not allow them to invest, Cambodia will lose the confidence of investors,” he said. “I responded by saying that losing investor confidence is one thing but I have to consider protecting Cambodian people from disaster.”
Mr Hun Sen said that he also told the company to let the next generation of Cambodians find ways to mine Titanium without affecting the forests or polluting the sea.
Mithona Pouthorng, Koh Kong governor, yesterday said she agreed with Mr Hun Sen over rejecting the investment because it would seriously impact the environment and devastate forests.
“The forest brings a lot of benefits for people, including local villagers, who can earn a living from forestry products and eco-tourism,” Ms Mithona said. “Even if there are small benefits from eco-tourism, these are part of long-term sustainable goals.”
Pich Siyun, provincial mines and energy department director, could not be reached for comment.