Friday, July 23, 2010

Gold found in Cambodia

I was told by a Cambodian friend that there is gold in Cambodia. He says a Chinese company has the license for the gold digging and the government does not want people to know so they are keeping mum about it.

Not quite.

I did a google search and found Singapore's Straits Times reported the news in May. "CAMBODIA said on Monday that Australian firm OZ Minerals had discovered around 8.1 million tonnes of gold on its territory, ahead of a conference intended to draw in mining investment."

From Gold mine may leave people homeless in Cambodia:
"The gold deposit that both [Australian] exploration company OzMinerals and the Cambodian government are excited about lies in the remote Mondulkiri province, 500 km from Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh.

"After 17 years of exploration the government believes this could be the biggest find so far in Cambodia, yielding at least 600,000 ounces of gold. The project is in its infancy and will not be viable as a mine unless OzMinerals can do more small scale drilling and sampling to see if it can yield more than two million ounces of gold.

"The government says the residents have deliberately built their homes on land owned by OzMinerals and will not be compensated, and if they do not move the government will burn their homes or bulldoze them."

I wonder if Oz Minerals had to do the same as BHP Billiton for access to the mines. BHP had allegedly paid "tea money". In April, the Sydney Morning Herald published a report on the scandal.

"In … terms of the minerals exploration agreement with the Cambodian government, which granted BHP Billiton and Mitsubishi the right to explore for bauxite, an amount of $US1 million was formally paid to the Cambodian government in September 2006," BHP wrote.

But BHP did admit "that its own internal investigation - a response to inquiries from the SEC - had uncovered evidence "regarding possible violations of applicable anti-corruption laws involving interactions with government officials."

BHP has paid New York law firm Davis Polk & Wardell to help them. I have a friend from school working in this firm (yes Singaporeans are everywhere). But of course my friend will not give me information. This is why she gets paid the big bucks.

If my Cambodian friend is right, Oz Minerals is not the only company that has found gold in Cambodia. So have the Chinese. He says the Chinese have sent the gold for tests to ascertain its quality. My friend is unhappy because of course he'd prefer if the gold stayed in Cambodian hands.

Mondulkiri is remote and relatively unexplored, so has much mining potential. The people there are dirt poor, and because the area is so remote, they are often neglected. Most children don't go to school and small children go into the small holes in the quarries looking for minerals (much like the children chimney sweeps in Europe a century or two ago). A friend who visited told me the locals get paid US$5 a kg of zircons. US$5. Do you know how hard it is to find a kilogramme of stones?

I was also told the volcano lake of Mondulkiri has been sold to a foreign company to build a casino. This information was from a foreigner working there but I have been unable to confirm this as there are no news reports. I really hope it is not true because I think that would be a mistake.

Mondukiri is not like Las Vegas, a desert with no natural attractions, so a casino city is the only draw. Building a casino will attract only one sort of tourists at the expense of many other tourists who'd like to see the natural beauty of Cambodia.

As for Oz Minerals, it too, is not without scandal.


Anonymous said...

So actually OZ Minerals is a Chinese company- they were sold to Chinese company very recently:

Details are Sketchy also tried to figure about how much money that was (a lot!):

Diana Saw said...

ah! thanks for clearing that up alison. so my khmer friend is right in saying a chinese company found the gold, even though it has an aussie name (OzMinerals). cambodia could be such a rich country but for the corruption. to me, it's like any african country in this regard.


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