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Mines have yet to produce

Sector could take five years to a decade to develop, UNDP official says

EXTRACTION in Cambodia’s burgeoning mining sector has yet to begin, a leading official stated Monday, as the UNDP predicted up to a decade of industry development.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) representative Douglas Broderick said at a press briefing, held in Phnom Penh, that he expected the mining industry would develop in a “five- to 10-year time frame”.

“We’re not talking about something that will happen overnight but something that is gradually created,” he said of the sector, days before a UNDP-backed mining conference opens in the capital Wednesday.

Director General of the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy (MIME), Sok Leng, added that the 60 or so firms active in domestic mineral exploration has only generated small amounts of revenue so far.

“Although mining in Cambodia has not started yet, the sector has been active in generating state revenue from fees via registration, licencing, transfers of rights, tenures of exploration, and royalty and taxes on mining for construction materials,” he said.

According to a TOFE (statement of financial earnings) presented by the government at an Oxfam America extractive industries conference in April, the state generated US$1.45 million in mining revenues last year.

Mining activities in the Kingdom are still “at the early study stage”, Sok Leng said.

He said that firms presently pay at least $15 per square kilometre per year for exploration rights, with prices increasing over the amount of time companies hold on to their rights. Much of the Kingdom’s mineral wealth is concentrated in remote areas such as Mondulkiri province, adding to the challenge of extracting the deposits, Sok Leng said.

“Exploration and mining in Cambodia is not at all easy, as there is poor transport infrastructure, and mine exploration has to be conducted in the remote jungle,” he said, and added that firms from Cambodia, Australia, China, Vietnam, and Korea are exploring the countryside for deposits of copper, iron ore, gold, bauxite, coal and precious stones.

Sok Leng said there is a lack of domestic technical expertise in the sector, and that plans are on the cards to increase short-term training, explore scholarships in the industry abroad, and “to look at the possibility of reopening the school of geology-minerals in Cambodia.”

He added that the industry could also be improved through a domestic laboratory to analyse sample results and reduce illegal mining.

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