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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Energy Ministry to decentralise licensing miners

A woman pans for gold in Preah Vihear at a mine
A woman pans for gold in Preah Vihear at a mine this year. On Friday, the Ministry of Mines and Energy officially made provincial authorities responsible for the issuing of small-scale mining licences. Heng Chivoan

Energy Ministry to decentralise licensing miners

The Ministry of Mines and Energy has decided to decentralise the process for small-scale miners and dredgers to obtain licences, with the government now permitting provincial authorities to directly issue licences to operators without ministerial oversight.

Speaking at a meeting on the new measures, Dith Tina, a secretary of state at the ministry, said the decision to transfer authority over artisanal miners to the country’s 25 provinces was issued on April 3.

“If we ask small-scale mine operators to apply for licences through the ministry, such a procedure would take too long and not be effective,” he said. “We think the provincial and district [authorities] are capable of handling these duties.”

Tina added that the ministry would hold workshops and training programs aimed at promoting safety and environmental protection.

Under the new regulations, small-scale mining operations are defined as: open mines that take up no more than 1 hectare of land and dig no more than 5 metres, and underground miners who operate at a depth of no more than 20 metres under the surface.

Meng Saktheara, another secretary of state for the ministry, said that provincial mining authorities will have the right to monitor, review and evaluate artisanal mining operations once they are registered.

“Each [provincial mining] director will be required to send a licence request to the provincial governor,” he said. “If a governor does not agree [to grant the licence], the director will have to report to the ministry for a final decision.”

However, since these new guidelines were presented, concerns have been raised over how provincial authorities will be able to manage the new
responsibilities.

Sihanoukville Deputy Govenror Heng Sam Ath said his jurisdiction may face challenges in trying to halt illegal sand miners since there has been little cooperation from the local population. He said there were “many” illegal sand miners in the area, but that it was difficult to identify them.

Saktheara, however, said many local miners are happy to comply with the new provisions. He added that the process aimed to help illegal miners transition into the formal sector. “The main focus is to facilitate local miners . . . to apply for a licence,” he said. “There is no need to hide themselves; they have rights like other mining companies.”

Cambodians for Resource Revenue Transparency executive director Kim Natacha said that the move seems like a step in the right direction.

“We support better regulation in terms of safety, supervision monitoring and training,” she said. “[Just] as long as communities are able to make a living and they are not creating environmental hazards.”

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