Cambodia will soon join the roster of gold producing countries after the government announced the commencement of commercial gold mining operations in the Okvau area in southwestern Mondulkiri province's Keo Seima district from June 21.
Prime Minister Hun Sen on June 10 announced that after 14 years of exploration and research by Australian miner Renaissance Minerals (Cambodia) Ltd, the company will be the first to commercialise the gold at the Okvau Gold Project.
Reportedly able to produce semi-finished gold alloys containing 90 per cent gold, Renaissance will be in compliance with recognised international standards.
An earlier report outlined an initial Life of Mine (LOM) of eight years, with an average of three tonnes of gold produced each year.
Cambodia expects the project to generate $185 million per annum in pre-tax cashflow, with $40 million from royalties and taxes transferred to the national budget, according to the prime minister.
He noted the untapped potential resting in the gold mining industry, but stressed that investing in the sector requires professionals and advanced technology, as well as long-term commitment, he said in a nod to Renaissance.
“Today's announcement of the launch of the gold industry is not just an invitation to encourage people to take up gold mining businesses – it is one of the most risky ventures, and requires a lot of capital and specialised skills," Hun Sen said.
Renaissance's parent company, Perth-based Emerald Resources NL, on June 8 said it had commenced crushing activities, delivered the first ore feed to the mill and has commenced wet commissioning of the processing plant at its wholly-owned 1.14-mega-ounce Okvau Gold Project in advance of the maiden gold pour this month.
Emerald managing director Morgan Hart said: “The first ore feed and commencement of wet commissioning of the Okvau Gold Project is a significant milestone for the company and represents the exceptional efforts by our experienced construction and development team with cooperation from our quality contractors and global suppliers.
“The project has remained on budget and on schedule despite the logistical challenges brought on by the global pandemic and is a testament to the skill and experience of the team we have assembled on site throughout this process,” he said.
“Construction activities are nearing practical completion and open-pit mining has delivered over 245,000 tonnes of predominantly oxide ore on the ROM [run-of-mine] pad.
“The oxide feed is being used to wet commission the SAG [semi-autogenous grinding] mill and leaching circuit for the first few weeks of operation allowing a ramp-up of gold in circuit in advance of the maiden gold pour this month.
“Hard rock, sulphide feed will be added to the circuit in the coming weeks to commission the float regrind circuit,” Hart added.
Prime Minister Hun Sen claimed that with the start of the first international small-scale industrial mining business in Cambodia, the Okvau Gold Project will serve as a role model for other would-be miners, and motivate them to comply with sustainable mineral-resource development principles.
“The start of operations makes it clear that our past efforts in the mining sector were indeed viable, and we can extract natural resources from underground and reap their benefits for our socio-economic system, with high accountability for the environment and society,” he said.
“All mining companies are encouraged to use this model of accountability development at all stages.”
The environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) for the project was finalised in July 2017 and approved by the Ministry of Environment in November that year, according to Renaissance.
In July 2018, Renaissance was granted an Industrial Mining Licence covering 11.5sq km and allowing for the development of the project. The company notes that the “licence has an initial 15-year period with the right to two renewals of up to 10 years for each in accordance with Cambodian laws”.
In December 2019, a Mineral Investment Agreement (MIA) was signed by the ministries of Mines and Energy; and Economy and Finance, which Renaissance stresses “provides certainty and stability of the fiscal regime for the development and operations of the Okvau Gold Project”.