The Okvau Gold Project in southwestern Mondulkiri province’s Keo Seima district has produced 522kg of gold ore as of September 23 since the first gold pour in June, according to Ministry of Mines and Energy director-general for Mineral Resources Ung Dipola.

Renaissance, a subsidiary of Australia-listed Emerald Resources NL, launched commercial operations at the project on June 21 in the Okvau area. Pre-production capital costs totalled $120 million, Emerald affirmed.

Emerald last week announced that it had achieved the successful ramp up of operations to full production at the mine, which is on track to reach 23,000 ounces (652kg) by end-2021.

Dipola told The Post on September 26 that the Australian miner had produced 46 dore bars – reportedly with 90 per cent gold solution – weighing a cumulative 522kg, or an average of 11.35kg per bar.

Citing the General Department of Customs and Excise of Cambodia, he said 247kg had been exported to Australia to be refined into 99.99 per cent pure gold.

He lauded the progress at Okvau as a “source of pride” for the ministry and the government, investment companies and other stakeholders, as well as a manifestation of the untapped potential in the mining sector in Cambodia, which he termed a “sovannaphum”, or the Khmer version of the Pali term for “golden land”.

"We expect more companies to come to study and invest in Cambodia's mineral resources sector, which will provide a significant windfall of national economic growth and create new job opportunities for Cambodians," he said, extending a welcome to businesses looking for an industrial investment opportunity.

However, he cautioned, project owners must conduct detailed Initial Environmental (IEIA) and Socio-economic (SEIA) impact assessments to ensure sustainable development, as well as go through the legal concession acquisition process.

Spot gold inched up 0.29 per cent to close at $1,750.87 per ounce ($56,291.78 per kg) on Friday, September 24.

At the inauguration ceremony of the gold refinery, Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem said the project is designed to process nearly two million tonnes of ore per year, and expected to yield an annual average of three tonnes of dore bars – over eight years – containing 90 per cent gold.

“This achievement has brought an influx of foreign investment in Cambodia, creating employment and economic opportunities, reinforcing the diversification of local industries, and providing many other socio-economic benefits for Cambodia,” he said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen on June 10 noted that the commissioning of the project would come after 14 years of exploration and research by Renaissance.

Cambodia expects the project to generate $185 million per annum in pre-tax cashflow, with $40 million from royalties and taxes transferred to the national budget, he said.

The Ministry of Environment approved the environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) for the project in November 2017, and the mines ministry granted an extraction licence the following year.

Then in December 2019, a Mineral Investment Agreement (MIA) was signed by the mines ministry and the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

According to Dipola, Renaissance’s exploration and mining licences cover a total area of 1,227.16sq km in Mondulkiri, Kratie and Tbong Khmum provinces.