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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mining operation poisons water

Mining operation poisons water

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Villagers claim they’ve suffered from skin diseases since a small-scale gold mine opened

Photo supplied

Villagers say mining camps such as this one in Preah Vihear province

have poisoned their water and are making them and their animals ill.

THE use of poisonous chemicals by gold

miners in Preah Vihear province has polluted local streams and rivers,

according to ethnic minority villagers, who say tainted water is

causing skin disease and killing livestock.

Svay Phoeun, a community representative from Rovieng district, said

that since the arrival of miners from Kampong Thom and Kampong Cham

provinces late last year, more than 60 cows and buffaloes had been

killed and villagers had been affected by unknown skin conditions.

"At the beginning the water was no problem but after they used

chemicals, to clean the mines, we started getting sick and our animals

died," Svay Phoeun said, adding that villagers then took matters into

their own hands. "The miners stopped their work after their equipment

was confiscated and destroyed by angry villagers in early August."

According to a recent report from the rights group Licadho, 205

villagers and three local police officers destroyed mining shelters and

confiscated the mining equipment,  holding it at the district police

station.  "Police and eight local villagers were accused of destroying

the property," the report said. "But district authorities backed the

local villagers and prevented their arrest."

According to Licadho, Rovieng Deputy District Governor Kiet Kimtol said

that he will ask permission from provincial authorities to intervene on

the villagers' behalf and prevent their arrest.

Khieu Chan, land livelihood officer at NGO Forum on Cambodia, said that

even though the miners had stopped their activities, chemical elements

were still present in local waterways.

"We will visit the area next week to see the situation of the people

there and will appeal to the provincial authorities to intervene,"

Khieu Chan said. "We are trying to find a way of diluting the poison so

that people can drink the water."

Preah Vihear Governor Preap Tann could not be reached for comment Sunday.

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