An environmental NGO has raised concerns about potential impacts to Mondulkiri province’s Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary from a possible large-scale gold mining operation in the area.
The government, however, says that the companies involved are working hard to stave off any potential negative effects.
World Wildlife Fund Cambodia spokesman Un Chakrey said that the proposed gold mine could put several endangered and critically threatened species, such as elephants and bantengs, at risk along with other wildlife.
It also increased opportunities for illegal poaching and the likelihood of potential destruction of natural water resources and habitat if roads are built for transportation.
“We really think that the mining is very dangerous for the wildlife and habitat,” Chakrey said. “However, we will work hand-in-hand with the government and the companies [involved in the project] to ensure there’s no impact.”
Australian companies Renaissance Minerals Cambodia Limited and Emerald Resources have been conducting exploration work in Mondulkiri and are now applying for an industrial-mining licence, according to Ministry of Mines and Energy spokesman Meng Saktheara.
Neither company responded to requests for comment by press time. Saktheara said that the mining companies were operating inside the buffer zone of the protected area, where activity was allowed.
However, he added, a careful environmental impact assessment still needed to be done. The minister of mines and energy and the minister of environment have both visited the site recently.
The biggest gold deposit in the country – 1.2 million ounces of gold – was found in the area, Satkheara added.
“It could have a significant economic impact for the country, but at the same time, it’s so close to a protected area,” he said.
The WWF Cambodia is working with Renaissance Minerals on the environmental impact assessment, but the NGO had not seen any study yet, Chakrey said.
Sok Rotha, Mondulkiri provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said that mining always had consequences for the environment and affected the safety of both workers and any people that were living nearby.