Cambodia's mining industry is expected to be viable from late this year at the commencement of the mine harvesting period, according to Ministry of Mines and Energy secretary of state Meng Saktheara.
He was speaking to reporters on Tuesday at the 7th Extractive Industries Governance Forum (EIGF) under the theme Cambodia Mining, Oil and Gas Outlook 2019 and Beyond.
Saktheara said after years of exploration, two gold mining firms – Indian-owned mining firm Mesco Gold (Cambodia) Ltd and Australian-based Renaissance Minerals (Cambodia) Ltd – have moved a step closer to producing gold in Cambodia with the installation of a processing plant.
They are currently on track to start refining gold late this year and next year, respectively.
Saktheara said that Singapore-based firm KrisEnergy Ltd, which operates Cambodia’s offshore Block A, is expected to meet its schedule to extract its first drop of oil late this year.
“From 2019 to 2023, it is the period of harvesting. The collecting of government revenue [from the mining sector] will see a big jump which will contribute to increasing the national budget in order for us to allocate the necessary funds for public expenditure."
“From now to 2023, what we will see is an increase in national revenue through the mining industry, which will accelerate the country’s GDP and increase investment inflow into the sector,” he said.
While revenue collection from the mining sector currently contributes about 2.5 per cent to the total national revenue, Saktheara said revenue will increase five per cent next year and gradually increase in the following years. It will be more than 10 per cent after 2023.
“After 2023, we will able to see clearly how the mining industry can benefit the country as it will create a larger economic foundation, more job opportunities and more business,” he stressed.
Saktheara said the sector must overcome many hurdles as even standard exploration processes are time-consuming. The ministry has taken a long time to prepare regulations and it is now the time to arrange proper human resources to fully reap the benefits of the mining industry, he said.
Benefit to the people
Oxfam country director Solinn Lim said on Tuesday that some Cambodians have misunderstood that mine extraction implies free gasoline in the future, while others claim that they expect prices to drop at least 50 per cent.
“Revenue collection from oil, gas and mining should go to the national revenue [so the government is] able to spend on priority areas such as education, public health and social protection."
“If mining revenue can help people obtain these three public services for free or at lower costs, this will truly be a benefit that people receive from the extractive industries.”
Centre for Policy Study director Chan Sophal said in the release that EIGF is an innovative mechanism for key stakeholders to exchange and build trust with each other.
“If well managed, the extractive industry sector will contribute significantly to the development of the Cambodian economy. If not, it can be a liability causing public health problems and discontent,” he said.