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Mining exploration set for region home to endangered river dolphins

A newborn baby Irrawaddy dolphin swims in the Mekong River in Kratie province in June. WWF-Cambodia
A newborn baby Irrawaddy dolphin swims in the Mekong River in Kratie province in June. WWF-Cambodia

Mining exploration set for region home to endangered river dolphins

Australian mining firm Medusa Mining has announced plans to begin exploration for gold, copper and oil in Kratie province’s Prek Kampi commune, about 35 kilometres west of a stretch of the Mekong River that is home to endangered river dolphins.

Medusa Mining signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Sea Resources, which was granted exclusive exploration rights in Prek Kampi by the Ministry of Mines and Energy in June last year. The Prek Kampi region is home to the endangered Irrawaddy River Dolphin, of which about 80 remain in the Mekong River.

Boyd Timler, CEO of Medusa Mining, said yesterday that the exploration itself would be relatively harmless, and the project would be unlikely to affect the dolphins.

“We are aware that the dolphins are in that area of the river,” he said.

“Any water [near the mine] is small little streams . . . it’s nowhere near the river.”

Timler added that Sea Resources was handling the day-to-day operations of the exploration, including hiring a firm to conduct an environmental impact assessment and community engagement report.

A press release by Medusa Mining said the company would stand to earn a 70 percent stake in the project after contributing up to $3 million for exploration over a period of 4 years. The earn-in agreement is scheduled to be finalised March 1.

Un Chakrey, communications manager for World Wildlife Fund, which has spearheaded the campaign to protect the dolphins, said his organisation was lacking details about the project’s size and exact location, and declined to comment on the exploration agreement.

“We don’t have any information on whether or not [the land where the mining may take place] is protected,” he said. “I think [Medusa Mining] just started an environmental impact study.”

Negative environmental impacts of mining can include erosion, contamination of soil and groundwater, loss of biodiversity and far-reaching impacts on river networks.

Spokesmen for the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Mines and Energy declined requests for interviews yesterday.

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