The Ministry of Mines and Energy plans to issue an exploration licence to a locally registered firm, which intends to assess the suitability of northern Kampot province as a source for the minerals used in cement production.

Ung Dipola, director-general for Mineral Resources, said the ministry had assessed the technical and financial capital of WH Resources, and believed it is capable of ascertaining whether mining would be feasible in the province.

“In November last year, the ministry announced the opening of a 155ha mining concession at the hilly Phnom Tvear Brambei and Phnom Chroy Kandal areas in Chhouk district’s Taken commune. This does not mean that the company will build a cement plant on the site – they may abandon production altogether, should their exploration show a lack of potential,” he said.

“The ministry will issue the exploration licence in the near future, although no date has been set for the first searches by the company,” he noted.

Dipola said the ministry’s decision to award the licence is based on a thorough assessment, which was completed on January 16.

After last year’s announcement that the mining concession would be opened, five companies came forward for application details. WH resources were the only one of the five to submit a completed application.

Seng Bunvirak, president of the Cambodia Investor Contractor and Architect Association, said he encouraged the establishment of more cement factories in the country as it would reduce imports. He suggested that clear environmental impact studies should be complete before such work goes ahead.

“Locally produced cement is of just as high quality as imported products, but the price is lower. All stakeholders in the construction sector want quality products at acceptable prices. This will drive the construction of high-quality modern buildings across the Kingdom,” he added.

According to Bunvirak, the current prices of imported construction materials remain high, despite a slight drop in global fuel prices.

The ministry said it had opened the mining concession in response to the growing need for cement, which has increased year-on-year, noting that current domestic cement production cannot meet demand.

At present, Cambodia’s five cement factories have a production capacity of just over 9 million tonnes per year, while the construction industry requires an estimated 14 tonnes per annum.