Two siblings, including one teenager under the legal working age, died on Friday at a mine belonging to Indian firm Mesco Gold in Ratanakkiri province, prompting the Ministry of Mines and Energy to immediately suspend operations to carry out an investigation, officials said yesterday.
Sen Voeun, Yatung commune police chief in O’Yadav district, identified the victims as Chak Sarith, 17, and Chak Sarom, 20. The brothers from Tbong Khmum province had only been working for the company for a week.
They went down a mine shaft in a bucket, which the minstry said was designed to carry rocks, not workers. When the pulley broke, the bucket fell down the shaft.
Hun Bunthan, head of the provincial Department of Mines and Energy, said Mesco Gold agreed to compensate the family $5,000 for each death. The company is licensed and began to mine gold in the area this year.
Company Director Rajeev Moudgil said all regulations and safety procedures are in place at the mine.
“An enquiry conducted by the company has found that the workers ignored the clear safety instructions of not using ore skip/bucket for going down the vertical shaft,” he wrote by email.
Meng Saktheara, secretary of state at the Mines Ministry, confirmed the company has safety measures in place but that there “could also be management issues involved”, since workers had still managed to use the bucket despite guidelines in place not to do so.
He said the ministry had conducted inspections every two or three months at the mine, but he could not provide the date of the most recent visit yesterday. “We will do an investigation,” he said.
According to Moudgil, there was a supervisor and mining engineer at the site, but he did not specify if the two brothers were directly supervised.
Additionally, under Cambodia’s Labour Law, the minimum age for hazardous work is 18, while for nondangerous jobs it is 15. According to Moudgil, relatives of the 17-year-old claimed he was 19.
“Considering the [boy’s] need for the job, he was taken in as a trainee,” he said.
He skirted a question asking if the company had followed up to check for proof of the boy’s age, saying only: “The fact is he was a trainee.”