Eight goldmines in O’Tron village in Kratie province’s Sambor district were filled in by a provincial sub-committee taskforce on Friday and Saturday as part of a crackdown on the illegal extraction of natural resources.
Kratie provincial deputy governor Khan Chamnan, who led the task force, told The Post on Monday that his team had previously warned locals to stop all illegal mining operations, with 15 families given a week to do so.
“The deadline passed several weeks ago, and our team found eight different locations where villagers did not follow through with their agreements, so our team inspected and shut down the illegal mining operations,” Chamnan said.
In 2011, Chinese company Xing Yuan Kang Yeak Co purchased 28sq km from the government, including the area in Sambor district, with a licence to operate goldmines.
It temporarily ceased operations some three years ago after a mineshaft collapse in which four workers were killed and many others suffered serious injuries, Chamnan said.
In mid-2018, the firm began preparing to resume operations and requested intervention from authorities to stop illegal mining in the company’s economic land concession or it would launch legal proceedings against those who did so.
Sok Kiriroth, director of the provincial mine and energy department, who was involved in the crackdown, said authorities used two excavators and a bulldozer to fill in the illegal shafts.
“During the operation in Kbal Damrei commune’s O’Tron village, authorities completely filled in eight illegal mines and 12 ponds used by local illegal miners to clean [semi-precious mineral] malachite."
“Authorities will take stronger action if the company sues the villagers,” he said.
Khin Leng, a member one of the 15 local families who mined in the area, told The Post that only a small group of villagers had mined the company’s shafts to help support their families.
“The mining contributed income to my family, but we cannot violate the ban because we operated illegally as the mines belonged to the company, which had obt ained a mining licence from the government,” he said.
The company brought three containers of equipment to the area over the weekend in preparation for reopening the mines, said O’Tron village chief Sok Yoeun on Monday.
He said villagers would be able to work in the mines when the company resumed operations.