The use of chemical substances in illegal gold mining was threatening the health of about 200 families in Battambang province’s Phnom Proek district, where animals have reportedly died as a result of drinking contaminated water, officials said yesterday.
Chhom Maly, chief of Phnom Peh village in Phnom Proek commune, claimed that illegal miners who rented land from residents to mine had been operating at about 30 locations in the village since early this year.
He said a 3m by 4m pool had been built at each site to process gold ore using chemicals, and that the water from these pools was poured into a canal.
“Chickens and cows have died this year after drinking the water in the canal,” Chhom Maly said. “It has not caused any serious heath problems for people yet, but I believe it will in the future.”
Villager Nget Ath, 64, said he lived about 15 metres from one of the pools and his family had suffered from dizziness, headaches and vomiting as a result of the fumes. He added that recently his dog had died after drinking from the pool.
District governor Suon Kroeun confirmed that officials from the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy had recently visited the area and told the miners not to contaminate the canal.
“When I looked around, I saw that mercury chemicals are used by those mining businesses,” he said.
Provincial deputy governor Sieng Sothong said the mining was difficult to control because miners were co-operating with local landowners, but that the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy would create a committee to investigate.