A mining delegation from Cambodia has left for a fact-finding tour of Australia in a bid to glean knowledge from one of the world’s largest minerals exploration countries.
The trip is being coordinated by the International Mining for Development Centre of the Western Australia state government.
The centre confirmed yesterday that Richard Stanger, president of the Cambodia Association for Mining and Exploration Companies, and three other representatives from the Ministry of Mines and Energy, including Secretary of State Meng Saktheara, were on a seven-day tour of mineral-rich Western Australia to learn about Australian mining regulations.
“As part of the ministry initiative to improve regulation and administration of mining and oil and gas, some senior officials are in Australia to review and compare best international practices with a view to implementing international best practices,” Stanger told the Post yesterday by email.
Western Australia’s mining sector generated more than $71 billion in 2012-13 . Overall, mining constitutes an estimated 10 per cent to Australia’s GDP, though this is set to taper as Chinese demand for natural resources declines.
In Cambodia, meanwhile, the push towards extraction has been slow. There are just a handful of international mining companies prospecting for gold, copper, iron ore, oil or gas.
The Kingdom is yet to receive any revenue from full-scale extraction. However, licences handed out for mining concessions have generated income for the government – though not without controversy.
In 2009, Australian mining giant BHP Billiton deserted its mineral exploration project in the Kingdom amid claims that bribes were given to Cambodian government officials.
In 2011, fellow Australian mining firm Oz Minerals was alleged to have paid more than $1 million to businesspeople with close connections to government during a 2009 takeover bid relating to gold exploration in Mondulkiri province. The company has since left Cambodia.
The Kingdom’s political opposition has for a long time been critical of corruption in the local mining industry, calling for greater transparency in the issuing of licences for mining concessions.
“They will not learn or change anything from this trip. They should consider improving the system – ridding corruption and making doing business easier – instead of taking holidays,” Son Chhay, the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s chief whip, said, referring to the travelling delegation.
Despite Australia’s tainted record, International Mining for Development Centre (IM4DC) spokeswoman Sandra Dyer said yesterday that the Western Australia government continues to support Australian companies looking to operate in Cambodia.
“The WA government encourages responsible Australian companies involved in mining and mining equipment, technology and services to invest around the world,” she said.
Dyer added that IM4DC may provide further advice to the Cambodian government on how to build revenue and mature their mining sector.
Ron Heeks, managing director of Geopacific Resources, an Australian firm with copper and gold operations both here in Cambodia and in Fiji, said the Kingdom’s mining sector is still in need of a comprehensive regulatory framework.
“Cambodia’s mining sector is in its infancy, so having a delegation go to WA is very important,” Heeks said.
“The WA government’s laws surrounding mining and minerals exploration are recognized as one of the best in the world – one that many have taken and installed,” he added.
The industry delegation arrived in Australia on Sunday and is due to return on Friday.
The Ministry of Mines and Energy could not be reached for comment.