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Ministry questions oil assessment

Cambodia's Ministry of Environment told a Japanese oil company yesterday to better define the location of its initial onshore operations given the potential impact on the local population and environment.

The Ministry of Environment has required Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation to specify where it planned to drill 6,000 close-proximity holes for explosive seismic surveying in Cambodia’s Block 17, Mam Sambath, executive director of extractive industries watchdog DPA-EISEI, said yesterday.

Thailand-based International Environmental Management Co Ltd, which JOGMEC contracted to do the environmental impact assessment, said during the meeting that it would provide the ministry with details within nine days, according to Mam Sambath, who sent DPA-EISEI staff to the meeting. Members of the press were not allowed to attend the meeting, which is described by the ministry as open to the public.

The 6,500 square-kilometre Block 17 stretches between Siem Reap, Preah Vihear and Kampong Thom provinces and houses two of Cambodia’s oldest temples, according to the EIA, which was issued to the ministry in early September.

JOGMEC will consign operations to Moeco Cambodia Oil & Gas Co Ltd, which is partially owned by Mitsui Oil Exploration Co Ltd, according to the EIA. Although the EIA says the state-owned Japanese company would focus on about 300 square kilometres for seismic data, there is no specification as to where exactly on that plot the exploration will happen.

“We do worry it’s going to be problematic for the public and for the environment,” Mam Sambath said, referring to the close-proximity drilling practice specified in the EIA.

International Environmental Management Co Ltd also fell short of conducting meaningful consultation with locals who may potentially be affected by future exploration and drilling, Mam Sambath said.

“We realised the locals don’t know about the process involved in oil exploration,” Mam Sambath said. The extractive industries watchdog visited three districts in Block 17 last week, he added.

Damage to inhabitants, as well as to the environment, was rated in all but one instance as low and short-term, according to the EIA. Only Sambor Preikuk, one of the Kingdom’s oldest temples, could suffer what the report called “permanent impact.” Preah Khan, an Angkorean-era temple, is also located in Block 17.

Diep Sareiviseth, spokesperson for the Cambodia National Petroleum Authority, told the Post last week that Moeco’s assessment process was following national law carefully. “They are making progress every time,” he said in an email.

The Ministry of Environment yesterday declined to comment, as did both JOGMEC and Moeco Cambodia Oil & Gas.

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