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Mineral exploration firm to work with ethnic minorities

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Angkor Resources Corp executive chairman Mike Weeks (third from left) and leaders of four ethnic minority villages on the Andong Meas licence at the signing ceremony. SUPPLIED

Mineral exploration firm to work with ethnic minorities

Canada-based Angkor Resources Corp – formerly Angkor Gold Corp – has entered into a “ground-breaking” collaborative engagement with Ratanakkiri province’s Jarai minority ethnic communities on the Andong Meas licence.

“The agreement covers exploration through mining and also includes reclamation,” Angkor said in a May 4 press release, stressing its commitment to provide “expertise, employment, education and training in various skillsets which also supports the development of mineral projects” on the licence.

It highlight that the accord “paves the way for community, industry, government and civil society to implement a realistic model to benefit indigenous communities and advances ethical development in the country.

“The communities have outlined their needs and priorities, regarding culture and traditions, livelihoods, and the land rights of the indigenous Jarai villages.”

The mineral exploration company also agreed to “provide technical assistance and education, capacity building, surveying and mapping, and border identification for communities to pursue a communal title on their traditional lands … [and] to prioritise the hiring of a local community workforce and to provide relevant training in support of the exploration and future mining activities of the company”.

Angkor added: “Stakeholders agreed to collaborate to promote value-added businesses and to guide small enterprise skills such as personal finance, managing credit, and budgeting. Angkor continues to acknowledge the growing importance of ESG – environment, social and governance – principles as a key to driving its business forward, and ensuring the viability of its future mining assets.”

The Jarai are a minority ethnic group that have lived in northeastern Cambodia and Vietnam’s Central Highlands region for thousands of years and speak an Austronesian language related to Cham, Malay, Indonesian and Tagalog, unlike the Austro-Asiatic languages of their neighbours, such as the Bunong and Khmer.

The firm’s CEO, Stephen Burega noted that land rights remain a top priority for indigenous peoples and their communities in rural Cambodia.

“This first-of-its-kind template between a mineral company, and these communities in the area illustrates Angkor’s strong commitment to social governance for the benefit of all parties.

“By implementing the UN’s guidelines and Sustainable Development Goals, Angkor sets an example of how communities and companies can work together, manage expectations, protect the environment, and improve local governance and skills at each stage of the mining cycle,” he said.

Ministry of Mines and Energy director-general for Mineral Resources Yos Monirath welcomed the agreement, stressing its value to the Kingdom’s mineral mining industry, and especially in the northeast corridor.

“The company has received a licence from the ministry to study, research, and evaluate the potential of mineral resources in Ratanakkiri province. We are now reviewing their licence for renewal,” he said.

Angkor executive chairman Mike Weeks lauded the accord as a “way forward” to sustainability and a clear economic edge for the Jarai and their communities.

“To my knowledge, this agreement is the first of its kind in Cambodia and represents the culmination of our efforts in Asia for ethical development in the extractive sector, from the start to the finish.

“Angkor is pleased to work with indigenous community members to realise positive economic, environmental, and social benefits for all involved,” he said.

And social development manager Delayne Weeks added: “Angkor has always taken the position to use ESG principles early on in developments and projects, and to meaningfully collaborate with the local communities to create benefits and solutions.

“We have, from the start, paralleled social development with our exploration activities.”

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