The Ministry of Mines and Energy has said that it will perform environmental, social and economic impact assessments within three to six months before renewing and granting new licences for sand dredgers and sand miners operating in Phnom Penh and Kandal.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday following a closed-door meeting with 30 sand dredging firms based in the two provinces, Dit Tina, a secretary of state at the ministry, said that those operators still dredging despite expired licences have agreed to halt operations until the government completes the renewal process. He added that companies with expired credentials who met with the ministry will also allow the government to place a “seal” on their equipment to ensure their cooperation.
“The seal will be produced soon by the technical group,” Tina said. “It will break if a machine starts dredging. Our groups will monitor [the machines] . . . until the impact assessment is finished and licences are issued.”
After the meeting, most of the dredgers in attendance refused to speak with reporters. However, Muong Sao Khon, of Kandal- and Prey Veng-based Phal Khmer Development, claimed he suspended his business after his licence expired in 2011 and has felt the financial effects as a result. Still, he said that he had little recourse but to wait for a new licence to be issued.
“We have no choice, but we hope that the institutions concerned follow the law,” he said.
Currently, for Phnom Penh and Kandal, only the Sok Tieng company, based in Kandal’s Sa’ang district, has an up-to-date dredging license, while 18 companies are licensed to mine sand, Tina said.
The ministry also called on the public to help prevent illegal dredging by calling a special hotline at 727, or sending an SMS through the WhatsApp messenger service at 095 727 727.