The Ministry of Mines and Energy signed joint prakas with the Ministry of Environment aimed at simplifying the environmental impact assessment (EIA) requirements for artisanal and small-scale mining practices.
The law has set up a transitional regime for EIA compliance, based on the scale and scope of existing mining operations in attempt to formalise the sector without causing undue burden to the extractive industry.
Mining sites less than 10 hectares are exempt from EIA requirements and need to only file an environmental protection pledge with the Ministry of Environment, while those that are less than 1 hectare are under the watch of provincial authorities. Mining operations from 10 to 40 hectares must begin an environmental impact study, but are not restricted from continuing operations.
Anything above 40 hectares and deemed “likely to cause significant environmental impacts”, must conduct a full EIA assessment before given a mining licence.
Meng Saktheara from the Ministry of Mines and Energy said that the new prakas provide a “step-by-step” process to regulate the sector.
“We will give small-scale mining operations three months to comply, while larger sites will be given six months to a year,” he said. “From our perspective, because the small-scale mining sector has little corporate governance, this will allow them time to become more like corporate businesses.”
He added that the new requirements will bring more mining operations under government oversight.
“Just because they comply with the law, does not mean that we will grant them a licence,” he said. “But we also don’t want to stop their operations because they are engaged in existing contractual agreements.”