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Mesco Gold’s glittering future temporarily stalled

Chhut Bunthoeun / Khmer Times Share:
A worker undertakes some initial prospecting for the presence of gold. KT/Siv Channa

Indian-owned mining firm Mesco Gold (Cambodia) has temporarily halted work on a new processing plant installation at its Phum Syarung gold mine in Ratanakiri’s Yatung commune due to import issues caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The hiatus means that the company’s plan to start extracting the precious metal in March is also on hold. Currently, only 20 per cent of the plant has been constructed.

“The refinery equipment we needed to import from China suddenly became impossible to get because of the Coronavirus outbreak. When the situation recovers and the government green lights visa entries to the country again, so we can go and import the equipment, we are hopeful that resume work on the plant in April or May,” said Un Vichea, a representative for Mesco Gold.

Mesco Gold purchased the rights to develop and mine the Phum Syarung prospect from Canadian-listed exploration firm Angkor Gold in 2013 as part of a $1.2 million deal. The company was granted a commercial license in 2016. Work on the plant installation was paused at 20 percent.

When work recommences, the facility will be able to refine from 350 to 500 tons of gold ore per day, according to Vichea. One ton of gold ore can produce up to 0.05 gram of gold, and today’s market price in Cambodia for the precious metal averages around $49,000.

Elsewhere, Australian-listed mining firm Emerald Resources NL announced early this month that the company signed a Mining Contract with MACA Limited to supply earthmoving equipment and conduct contracting mining services at the Okvau Gold Project  in Mondulkiri’s province Mondul Seima district.

The government granted the firm an Industrial Mining Licence covering 11.5 square kilometres at the Okvau site. The company’s managing director, Morgan Hart, said the signing ceremony followed a thorough and collaborative process between both parties to finalise the mining schedule for the development and operations of the Okvau Gold project.

“This partnership gives us greater confidence to achieve our goal of becoming the first modern large-scale Cambodian gold producer by Q2, 2021,” he said.

Suy Sem, Minister of Mines and Energy, previously said the extractive industry is on course to become a main economic pillar, explaining that it will create a new source of revenue for the national budget and provide many job opportunities to local communities.

“It will play a significant part in strengthening and diversifying Cambodia’s economic development,” he said.

But Oxfam interim country director, Priscilla Ngero, has called for responsible mining development.

“Industry players have to be transparent and responsible when it comes to the environment and social issues,” she said.

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