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A man shovels sediment into a pile after it passed through a sluice at a gold field in Preah Vihear’s Rovieng district last year.
A man shovels sediment into a pile after it passed through a sluice at a gold field in Preah Vihear’s Rovieng district last year. Heng Chivoan

Mine official penalties mooted

Official issuing resource-extraction licences have been told to follow proper procedures or face disciplinary action after the Ministry of Mines and Energy discovered a company approved to dredge sand in Ratanakkiri was mining gold instead.

The Chhay Ching Heang Group’s sand-dredging licence was revoked after lab results confirmed the company was extracting gold, ministry spokesman Meng Saktheara said yesterday.

No further action would be taken against the company because there was not enough evidence, Saktheara said. The company couldn’t be reached for comment.

A review of the process to issue the company’s licence found that officials had never visited the site and assumed there was no gold in the area based on a prior assessment in a nearby location, Saktheara said. “They should have gone out to the site and collected samples,” he said.

Saktheara said the ministry had since informed officials that those who failed to follow protocols – such as conducting an assessment of the area prior to issuing a licence to see if other mineral resources are available – would face “disciplinary measures”.

However, he said no one had been disciplined over the failure to follow protocol in this instance. “From now on, there will be disciplinary measures,” Saktheara said.

On Monday, the ministry also created a performance assessment committee to keep tabs on its provincial counterparts because no one took action against Chhay Ching Heang Group, even though the company began to operate before it received its licence in May.

The committee was created “to make sure they uphold ethical standards”, Saktheara said. San Chey, executive director of accountability watchdog ANSA-EAP, said that better governance was needed in the sector.

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