Areng Valley Group, Villagers to Visit Mines Ministry

The Ministry of Mines and Energy invited the head of an NGO battling to stop construction of a highly criticized dam in a remote area of Koh Kong province to meet with ministry officials Friday.

Signed by Mines Minister Suy Sem and dated April 25, the letter invites Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson and his associates to discuss issues surrounding the planned Stung Chhay Areng dam.

“We just want to question his background—where does he come from and why has he prevented the development of the dam project,” said Pich Siyun, director of the Koh Kong provincial mines and energy department.

The head of Mother Nature, an environmental NGO, Mr. Gonzalez-Davidson has spent several years working with ethnic Chong villagers in the Areng valley and advocating for alternates to the dam.

The 108-MW dam, to be constructed by China’s Sinohydro (Cambodia) United, is expected to force hundreds of families off their ancestral lands and flood some 20,000 hectares.

The families want the project canceled and have been standing guard over the only road leading to the proposed project area, prepared to block if and when the firm attempts to begin construction.

In February, the Ministry of Mines and Energy issued a six-month license to Sinohydro allowing the company to research mining opportunities in the area.

Mr. Gonzalez-Davidson said he was looking forward to receiving more information from officials.

“One hundred percent I will attend the meeting. First, I can have more opportunity to study the development of the Areng dam project. Second, I can have a chance to inform them about the potentials of the Areng area,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter)

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