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Australian company kicks off operations at Cambodian gold mine
The Okvau mine site in Cambodia. Photo: Emerald Resources

Project should bring $300 million to south-east Asian nations’ coffers over seven years, but critics decry its location on former wildlife refuge

(AF) An Australian company has officially launched operations for Cambodia’s first commercial gold mine in the kingdom’s resource-rich northeast.

Renaissance Minerals said it had started ore-crushing activities and delivered the first ore feed to its mill.

“The first ore feed … represents the exceptional efforts by our experienced construction and development team with co-operation from our quality contractors and global suppliers, said Morgan Hart, managing director of Emerald Resources, which owns Renaissance.

“The project has remained on budget and on schedule despite the logistical challenges brought on by the global pandemic,” he added.  “Construction activities are nearing practical completion.”

The Okvau Gold Project involves the development of the Okvau Deposit, which is located in the Mondulkiri province of eastern Cambodia, about 275km north-east of the capital city, Phnom Penh.

TAXES AND ROYALTIES

It is expected to generate more than $300 million in tax revenues and royalties over seven years for the country, according to a statement from the Australian embassy in Phnom Penh.

The project has the backing of strongman premier Hun Sen, who wrote in a June 10 Facebook post that it was a “great achievement” to boost Cambodia’s economy, which has been battered by the pandemic.

An average of three tonnes of pure gold will be produced per year in its first eight years of operation, he said.

The Okvau Gold project area has been carved from the once-protected land of Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary. Residents – many of whom are indigenous minorities – have long clashed with authorities over government-backed projects that they allege are a cover for rampant deforestation of valuable timber.

But the gold mining project was being conducted with “high responsibility for the protection of the environment and society”, Hun Sen vowed in his post.

The southeast Asian nation has been searching for minerals for years.

In December, Cambodia extracted its first drop of crude oil from its waters in the Gulf of Thailand, a long-awaited milestone for the impoverished country.

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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.

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