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Extracting the dollar figures

COMPANIES involved in Cambodia’s extractive industries have revealed further information about controversial payments to the government, as more detailed revenue figures showed the state received more than 9 billion riels (US$2.25 million) from the sector last year.

Following an announcement by Australian miner BHP Billiton that it was conducting an internal investigation of possible graft violations widely believe to have taken place in Cambodia, the French energy giant Total responded this week to revelations made by Prime Minister Hun Sen last month that it had paid $28 million as part of a deal for offshore Area III in October.

The figure appeared to contradict an official disclosure by a Ministry of Economy and Finance official in March that showed payments of $26 million were paid in January, but Total spokeswoman Phenelope Semavoine said by email Tuesday that the additional $2 million “will be made at a later date”.

She added that Total would co-manage a social fund programme for education and health in the Kingdom, without giving further details.

Total’s response comes on the heels of a report indicating that the government received $1.45 million from the mining sector and $800,000 from the oil and gas industry last year, the first year the government has made public official payments from the extractives industries.

Although the government still has not published complete 2009 revenues from the sector as part of TOFE (state financial operations notice) on the Finance Ministry website, the Post obtained a presentation from last month’s Oxfam America conference that showed the full-year payments.

Chevron spokesman Gareth Johnstone declined to comment Thursday on whether the US firm had made similar payments to the state as part of its involvement in offshore Block A, citing “contractual arrangements” and “commercially confidential information”.

Southern Gold, which is exploring for minerals in western Cambodia, said late Wednesday it had not made any payments to the government as part of its concession agreements.

“We have good relationship[s] with our joint-venture partners and have regular audits, doubled when we consider our JV partners audits and checks,” Cambodia representative Grant Thomas said by email.

“We at Southern Gold do not pay those types of payments [or] fees.”

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