The Ministry of Mines and Energy is committed to ending unregulated mining in Mondulkiri’s Mesam area, promoting legal practices to boost employment, increase national revenue and reduce environmental and societal impacts, according to the ministry. 

A March 1 press release from the ministry detailed a large-scale crackdown against informal gold mining in the region. Conducted from February 28 to March 1, the operation was a collaboration between the ministry and the Mondulkiri provincial administration, coordinated by the provincial prosecutor’s office.

The release noted that the primary area of focus, Chung Phlas commune in the province’s Keo Seima district, has been home to family-run gold mining since 1987.

It said that initially, these activities involved families engaging in small-scale mining and refining, however, recent years have seen a shift towards mechanised underground mining.

It said that despite sweeps initiated by the ministry since 2017 and extensive awareness campaigns, anarchic mining activities have persisted. The ministry, in cooperation with the provincial energy department and local authorities, has focused on education and prevention efforts.

The ministry’s commitment extends to eradicating unregulated mining and promoting lawful practices that offer numerous national benefits. These include job creation, additional national revenue, reduced environmental and societal harm and support for sustainable local community development.

The ministry urged those involved in unregulated gold mining to cease their illegal operations and to assist in prevention efforts by reporting offenses through the 095 727 727 hotline.

Neang Vannak, spokesperson for the provincial administration, stated that he had not been informed of any recent raids or arrests related to illegal gold mining in the area. 

He acknowledged that the ministry, along with the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU), military police and provincial authorities, had previously planned interventions against the unlicensed mines.

Vannak also mentioned that the provincial administration had issued notices to those involved in illegal activities, giving them until February 27 to remove hazardous materials, such as explosives and chemicals, from the site.

“The joint working group has been active since the deadline, but I have not yet received any reports on the arrest of individuals involved in [illegal activities],” he added.