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Villagers fight mining venture

Nearly 70 representatives from 278 families in Preah Vihear’s Rovieng district are seeking intervention after a national mining company began drilling on their farmland last week, locals said yesterday.

According to villager Yean Bunchan, 47, representatives from a company based in Kandal province called T P B-TV Development met with villagers on Sunday to announce they had been granted a licence to explore their land.

“The representatives said the company will pay us only $1,000 per hectare. They will take our land whether we accept the money or not,” Bunchan said, adding the company had begun drilling in the village last week.

Lor Chann, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, told the Post that 67 families had filed complaints at his office yesterday after the company started searching a 100-hectare swath of farmland for potential mining opportunities near Romdoh commune.

“The villagers are very concerned about losing their land, which they have cultivated for years,” Chan said, adding that the company had been given two licences from the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy permitting development of 190 hectares.

Two of the three licences were signed by the minister, Cham Prasidh, Chan said, noting that according to a copy of one of them, land surveying had to be halted if villagers were affected.

Villager Kuon Sokun, 26, told the Post that an exploratory licence had been granted to the company on October 31, allowing operations to take place over 9,000 hectares of land.

Kong Makara, provincial department director for the ministry, confirmed the company had been awarded a licence to explore potential mining opportunities in Rovieng district.

“I will meet with the local authorities about this case on Tuesday,” Makara said.

Company representatives could not be reached for comment.

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