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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mine concession sale planned in Ratanakkiri

Mine concession sale planned in Ratanakkiri

Astra Resources, parent company of Australia’s Astra Mining, will finalise within two months the acquisition a 222-square-kilometre gold concession in Cambodia’s Ratanakkiri province, the company announced yesterday.

Astra, which listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange September 30, is aiming for large and speedy gold production in the Kingdom’s remote northeast. Some familiar with the industry, however, have questioned the ambitions of the little-known company.

Gold extraction is anticipated within a year of acquisition, CEO Jaydeep Biswas said yesterday. The company is in the process of conducting an environmental impact study at the site the O’Yadao district of Ratanakkiri, with expectations for a quick turnaround on gold production pending the issuance of an extraction license, he said. About 350,000 ounces of gold could be proven within one year, according to a company statement issued yesterday.

Cambodian and Kuwaiti joint venture PIMA-D&D International Co Ltd attracted some doubt from industry insiders in early September when it claimed extraction would begin at a newly acquired concession within two years. Jaydeep Biswas claimed a Cambodian company called Nam Hai Group presently held the exploration licence in Ratanakkiri and would transfer that concession to Astra. Officials at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy yesterday could not be reached to confirm Nam Hai was the true concession holder, and the ministry website which lists concession holders was unavailable.

MIME told the Post in July that it had no record of Astra Mining’s operations, although that did not exclude Astra from partnering with another concession holder. Astra claims to have paid a 10-percent deposit on the mine, but the Jaydeep Biswas would not provide further details concerning ownership or the amount of the concession, citing commercial confidence. Petone, an Australian mining company, will hold a minority stake in the concession, according to a statement from the company.

ANZ Royal Bank CEO Stephen Higgins said Astra’s obscurity in Australia’s mining industry garners suspicion about the company’s projections.

“While they make some rather extravagant claims in the [press] release and on their website, it is not a name many Australians would be familiar with,” he said. “I’d put this one in the category of ‘I’ll believe it when I see it.’ ”

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