Officials from the Ministry of Mines and Energy and Ba Phnom district said on Thursday that all stone excavation operations in the district have licenses, responding to rumours alleging an illegal excavation operation occurred in the protected Chheu Kach Mountain.
Ministry spokesman Yos Monirath told The Post that stone excavation operations have existed in Phnom Svay 30 – the site of a smaller mountain, nearby Prey Veng province’s Chheu Kach mountain, where the contested stone excavation occurred – since the colonial era.
“Stone excavation has happened in that area since the French Protectorate period. Chheu Kach Mountain is listed under the preservation area, no one is allowed to touch it.
“However, there is another smaller mountain nearby known as Phnom Svay 30. There are three or four companies that have licenses to excavate the mountain to supply the stone for use in the area,” he said, adding that the ministry has issued licenses for stone excavation in Phnom Svay 30 since 2000.
Provincial Department of Mines and Energy director Chea Kakada told The Post on Thursday that all stone excavation companies in the area were registered properly and their explosive equipment was maintained in accordance with the law. He added that there were no Chinese companies illegally excavating the mountain.
“It is not true that a Chinese company operated illegally using tonnes of explosives which were not maintained properly. This news is false, there were no excavation companies operating illegally . . . all stone excavation companies have licenses,” he said.
Ba Phnom district governor Tep Phearun also told The Post that all stone excavation companies in his district have legal licenses.
“The mountain excavation site was located in the west, but the protected area is located on the eastern side of the mountain. The stone supply will not be gone any time soon. The excavation sites were separate from the protected area. No one can touch the protected area,” he said.
Phearun added that excavated stones can be used as construction materials, such as paving roads in Prey Veng, Svay Rieng and Kandal provinces.
Prey Veng’s coordinator for rights group Adhoc, Eang Kimly, said because of regular inspections by provincial and district authorities, the area was safely protected.
“I saw the small mountain that was excavated, it is located separately from the protected mountain that has a pagoda located on the top [Chheu Kach Mountain]. There was no excavation at Chheu Kach Mountain,” she said.