NGOs Are Optimistic as Mining Regulations Move Forward

A report on the government’s efforts to install a new regulatory framework for a nascent mining industry paints an overall positive picture, while noting more than a dozen gaps in the rules that need to be addressed.

Released by anticorruption NGO Transparency International Cambodia (TIC) on Wednesday, the report is intended to inform the government’s ongoing overhaul of regulations for mining exploration and industrial mining licenses.

Extracted materials accounted for 0.1 percent of exports last year, the report notes, though the industry is expected to grow as infrastructure and regulations develop.

At a conference in June between NGOs, mining companies and the Mines and Energy Ministry, officials reviewed a draft of the report and made recommendations, and the ministry agreed to address the problems raised in the final report by the end of next year.

While recent reforms, including Sub-Decree No. 72, which altered the way exploration licenses were granted, eliminated 14 problems TIC identified, the report details 14 additional problems that could, if left unaddressed, lead to corruption in the industry.

The risks listed as “very high” center largely around the evaluation process for granting licenses, consultations with affected communities and transparency of a company’s owners.

For example, the report recommends ensuring that those responsible for approving exploration licenses do not have ties to the companies they are evaluating, and suggests using external experts to ensure fairness in the process.

It also recommends detailing the procedures of ensuring local communities are properly represented in negotiations with companies and the government, and that information is both enforced by the Mines and Energy Ministry and made publicly available.

Much of the report’s recommendations would require a desire for reform from the Mines and Energy Ministry, which Pech Pisey, TIC’s director of programs, said he was optimistic about on Thursday.

“Political will exists within the government and [the ministry], although challenges remain,” Mr. Pisey said. “We have witnessed some positive impacts of the recent reforms of [the ministry] to enhance transparency in the mining sector in Cambodia.”

A spokesman for the ministry declined on Thursday to be interviewed.

A letter dated Wednesday and signed by a variety of NGOs—including Wildlife Conservation Society, World Wildlife Fund and the NGO Forum—praised the work of Minister Suy Sem, saying, “the ongoing multilateral party will become an important pillar in reforming the work of mines, oil, and gas sector in Cambodia.”

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