THIRTY families in Mondulkiri province’s Keo Seima district have ignored a deadline to tear down homes that government officials have ordered destroyed to make way for a gold-mining concession belonging to Oz Minerals.
In a meeting on Saturday, district authorities told the families that they needed to dismantle their homes and relocate by Sunday. On Monday, however, members of the community remained defiant, demanding either land or an unspecified amount of monetary compensation.
“I don’t care how much pressure the authorities put on me – I will not agree to move unless they provide me with compensation to buy new land,” said resident Sen Chhorn, who vowed to remain on her land even if her house is torn down.
Sok Seav, another Keo Seima resident, said she had lived in the community since 2006, though she noted that she does not have a land title. She, too, said the company should offer some form of compensation.
“We came to this area before Oz Minerals arrived, so they have to pay villagers if they need our land,” Sok Seav said.
An Oz Minerals spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.
But Keo Seima Deputy Governor Len Vanna said the families’ claims were suspect, and that they had only recently moved to his district from a handful of other provinces. He threatened a harsh reprisal if the community is not dismantled in short order.
“If they do not agree to tear down their homes, we will burn them to the ground,” he said.
Am Sam Ann, a district councillor in Keo Seima, said the government had no plans to award the villagers compensation because they had set up their homes “anarchically” on land belonging to Oz Minerals.
Sam Sarin, Mondulkiri provincial coordinator for the local rights group Adhoc, said the villagers had moved to the area in the hope of benefiting from commerce generated by the company’s presence.
Oz Minerals, which began its operations in Cambodia in 2006, is also drilling for copper in Mondulkiri.
In March, the firm announced it had identified inferred resources of 605,000 ounces of gold from 8.1 million tonnes of ore at grades of 2.3 grams of gold per tonne at its interests in Keo Seima.