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Mining official denies graft

Mining official denies graft

Officials from the Ministry of Mines and Energy checked on a quarry in Kampot province for the second time yesterday amid allegations it is operating illegally thanks to local corruption.

The quarry, which is owned by husband and wife Hok Chhenda and Tep Sokha, was found to be operating outside its authorised location in January 2013.

A quarry in Kampot’s Teuk Chhou district is under investigation by officials from the Ministry of Mines and Energy
A quarry in Kampot’s Teuk Chhou district is under investigation by officials from the Ministry of Mines and Energy, with claims of embezzlement and corruption. PHOTO SUPPLIED

At the time, Sokha thumb-printed a contract with the ministry, saying she would move its location.

“I will stop the illegal quarry business and do it where it is allowed by the ministry and respect the ministry’s instruction. In case the contract is breached, I will be responsible before the law,” she wrote.

By law, any owner whose actions contradict the terms of a business licence can be fined and have the licence revoked, said Meng Sak Theara, secretary of state at the Ministry of Mines and Energy.

But the quarry stayed in the same spot, sparking allegations from a local official that the ministry’s provincial director, Som Vichet, had personally profited to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars from allowing the operation to continue.

Vichet, who was accused by a local official within his ministry, dismissed the allegations in a letter to local media outlet Deum Ampil on October 22. The letter said his investigation found the quarry operated 50 metres away from its original site, which was not considered illegal.

Vichet could not be reached by the Post.

Aside from the corruption claims, the quarry’s troubles are far from over.

According to one inspector on the scene yesterday, who asked not to be named, the quarry’s business licence has expired, but it is still operating, as the owner had prepared extension documents.

According to commune chief Seng Thoung, trucks continually drive around the quarry while explosives go off around noon each day and sometimes even into the evening.

“Many trucks go in and out, and the stone is sold to Kep and urban areas for building paved road. Besides selling stone, the company also digs and sells soil.”

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