Responding to an official inquiry from an opposition lawmaker, the Ministry of Mines and Energy on Tuesday released details about silica sand exports, which became a source of minor controversy after they were revealed to be exempt from a ban on sand exports.
CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay requested the details two months ago, and yesterday called the ministry’s response a “positive” step, but expressed concerns that the only two companies licensed to mine and export such sand are owned or chaired by ruling party senators.
The ministry disclosed that it has only granted two industrial mining licences for silica sand – to CPP Senator Mong Reththy’s eponymous Mong Reththy Group, and to Silica Services Cambodge, which is chaired by CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat.
From November 2016 to June 15, Mong Reththy exported 54,100 metric tonnes of silica, while Silica Services exported 104,000 metric tonnes.
The ministry said it had collected $474,300 in royalties from silica sand during that period. In a statement, however, it noted that some of the documents requested by Chhay fell under the purview of other ministries.
Chhay said that while he hadn’t seen the official response yet, he “accept[ed] the explanation”, but would “check how these two companies got the licence” given their leadership.
San Chey, of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, also said the companies’ political connections raised concerns over abuses of power in the licensing process.