Eleven illegal gold mine shafts in Kratie province – including two in which several deaths occurred – are being filled in by authorities after villagers repeatedly ignored orders to cease operations there, officials said today.
Sok Kiriroth, director of the provincial Department of Mines and Energy, said officials had inspected the illegal mining site at O’Droun, in Sambor district's O’Por village, during the last two weeks. Villagers were still secretly operating, despite having been asked to stop several times, he added.
About 20 officials, including national Military Police, on Friday used an excavator to start dismantling and filling in the shafts, Kiriroth said.
“We always educated and cracked down on them several times, but when we go [to the site] they stop, and when we leave, they resume,” he said. “They never stopped permanently, so we used the machinery to bulldoze and fill the shafts.”
Some of the shafts are up to 30 metres deep. Kiriroth added that some of the villagers recognised that their operations were illegal and didn’t protest, and some voluntarily dismantled their own constructions above the shafts.
Four pieces of machinery were confiscated and impounded at the Department of Mines and Energy.
In August, four miners died in two separate shafts during incidents that were caused by cave-ins. The operations were allegedly taking place inside the perimeters of a Chinese mining operation named Xing Yuan Kanng Yeak, which had complained before. Contact details for the company weren't available.
Sok Yoeun, O’Por village chief, said 174 migrant families are living at O’Droun and some had settled there between 1980 and 1990, well before the company arrived in 2006.
“The company has attempted to dismiss villagers from its land, but they disagreed because they arrived earlier,” he said.
O’Droun is around 15 kilometres down a bad road from the O’Por village office. Yoeun said villagers suggested that national authorities create a new village for them before the 2013 national election, but never received a response on the request.