More than 500 villagers in Mondulkiri’s Chung Phlas’ mining community thumbprinted a letter sent to Prime Minister Hun Sen, and to the Ministry of Mines and Energy and its provincial counterpart, requesting that those holding a community mining licence be allowed to dig below the current limit of 20 metres.
A total of 527 villagers supported the Monday letter asking that they be allowed to dig as deep as 150 metres in order to extract gold.
Oun Chhang Lim, president of the Chung Phlas gold-mining community – composed of more than 30 mining sites – said villagers were having difficulty finding gold at the shallower depth.
“We used to dig more than 20 metres for a long time as our traditional way,” he said. “We could find gold to support our families.”
Last year, Chung Phlas became part of a pilot program to cut down on illegal mining by awarding community mining licences, with the Mines Ministry setting the 20-metre limit for technical and safety reasons, said Meng Saktheara, spokesman for the ministry.
Some villagers already had their licence revoked for digging as deep as 100 metres, he said.
In January, a miner died and another was injured while working at a community mining site in Poutong village in Prey Meas forest. Saktheara said he wasn’t sure whether the ministry had received the request, but added, “Personally, I don’t think it’s possible, technically and legally”, to grant it.
San Darith, a director of the mines department in Mondulkiri, said his department will examine the request.
Additional reporting by Yesenia Amaro