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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mining revenues questioned

Mining revenues questioned

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The Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy earned US$1.52 million in non-tax revenues in 2011, a figure that an opposition lawmaker said was far lower than the actual revenues brought in on mining licences.

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The intake was more than 15 per cent higher than in 2010, and included registration and application fees for new mining resource, land rental and business research licenses, as well as transfer and extension fees for existing licences, according to a report from MIME.

Minister Suy Sem attributed the increase to improvements in the management of mine exploitation and the increased monitoring of concessionary land, which proved effective in preventing companies from extracting and selling minerals under the pretext of research.

“The state revenue collected from the mine resource sector has increased continually as compared to previous years,” he said at the release of MIME’s report on Monday.

In 2011, a total of 24 companies were licensed to conduct research and exploration works on potential mines.

The general director of the General Department of Mine Resources at MIME, Sok Leng, stated in his address on Monday that so far approximately 70 companies from Australia, China, Vietnam and Thailand, as well as some firms from the Mining Exploitation League, have received exploration licences.

“Currently, the companies have been studying, researching and exploring the mines with their own techniques and practices, but have little success at the moment.”

Son Chhay, a lawmaker from the Sam Rainsy Party, however, said the declared revenue was far lower than the actual revenue, and that the ministry’s revenue intake was opaque.

Many of the licences, he said, were “offered to their [ministry official’s] relatives or those bribing the ministry”.

According to Son Chhay, up to 180 companies have been issued licences to exploit gold and uranium, among other metals, but some have no experience in exploration works at all and cause damage to the environment.

Some even obtained licenses to sublet to other firms in under table deals, he said.

MIME also announced that it has suspended 29 mining licenses and terminated agreements with 12 others due to inadequate experience or invalid exploration techniques.

Richard Stanger, president of the Cambodian Association for Mining and Exploration Companies, said there were “companies sitting on licences without exploring and spending on the land”.

MIME’s strong stance on the issue was good for the mining industry because it would allow other firms to make better use of the land, he said.

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