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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Illegal mine in Prey Veng finally called to account

Illegal mine in Prey Veng finally called to account

A team of Mines and Energy Ministry officials today will inspect an illegal soil-extraction site in Prey Veng that had operated unimpeded despite the knowledge of the provincial mines department.

Ministry spokesman Meng Saktheara yesterday said the activity was halted on Monday following complaints from nearby villagers, whose farmland was at risk of erosion and collapse from the digging.

Saktheara said the provincial department had requested operator Keo Sovann to get a licence several times, but Sovann failed to do so and continued to operate illegally in Pea Reang’s Prey Pnov commune.

“The provincial department claims it’s private property and that is why we sent people from the ministry to check on the ground,” he said, adding that the operation seemed “larger than a family-scale [mine] as defined under the law”.

If it’s determined the operation was for commercial purposes, officials will take legal action, Satkheara said. That would also trigger an investigation to determine “why the department didn’t take legal action from the beginning”.

According to a report submitted to the ministry from the provincial department, Sovann had extracted 5,764 cubic metres of soil, but the department said it had already facilitated a settlement between villagers and Sovann. However, Saktheara said settlements wouldn’t exempt Sovann from potential legal action.

Phan Try, an official with the Prey Veng provincial administration, said provincial officials gave Sovann four warnings.

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