THE conservation NGO Wildlife Alliance yesterday criticised plans for the development of a titanium mine in Koh Kong province, saying the project would scare off ecotourism investors and derail implementation of a lucrative pollution-reduction scheme.
Suwanna Gauntlett, the group’s country director, said the United Khmer Group had recently obtained a permit from the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy for the mine, which she said would cover 15,000 to 20,000 hectares in Thma Bang district.
“Now they need a permit from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, but they’re ready to go. They’re building the roads already and redoing the bridges,” she said.
Company representative Phorn Thou confirmed his company intended to mine titanium in the province, but said no permits had been granted. “My company is in the process of mapping out the area,” he said.
Pech Siyon, director of the provincial Industry, Mines and Energy Department, said a concession for a titanium in the district had recently been granted, but he declined to name the company or give any other details.
Gauntlett said the mine would threaten 144,000 hectares of protected forest in the district, as well as ecotourism projects that support 150 families in Chi Pat commune. Her organisation, she said, had spent nearly US$600,000 developing community-based tourism projects there over the past nine years.
“If we had known about this mine about three years ago we would have never had invested all this money in this area,” she said.
She also said the mine would doom plans to implement a Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation scheme that NGOs and officials had been hoping to launch in 2011. The scheme allows polluting companies in developed countries to offset their carbon emissions by paying developing countries to protect forests. Wildlife Alliance believes it would generate at least several million dollars in revenue.
Vann Sophanna, chief of the Forestry Administration’s Coastal Inspectorate who is due to meet concerned Chi Pat villagers today, could not be reached for comment yesterday.