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Mining association seeks standards and action

Photo by: Wesley Monts

Cambodian Association of Mining and Exploration Companies president Richard Stanger at his Phnom Penh office.

Cambodia could potentially contain a “bonanza” of mineral wealth, but
finding and extracting the resources is a risky, expensive business,
according to Richard Stanger, president of Cambodian Association of
Mining and Exploration Companies.

Although much of the country’s
mineral wealth was unexplored, the sector offers another revenue stream
that could assist Cambodia’s economic development.

“If Cambodia
has a mineral industry it will add a lot more strength to GDP. It will
give a buffer against the value of the other sectors,” he said.

The
association presently has 21 companies as members, including OZ
Minerals, Southern Gold, and Liberty Mining, of which Stanger is
managing director. Many of the present members are junior Australian
miners and have joined together to provide an industry voice for the
sector as it develops.

One concern CAMEC would like to see
addressed is the implementation of a minerals law addressing issues such
as taxation, which could be in place this year.

“We’re obviously
risk takers,” he said of the exploration companies in the Kingdom. “We
didn’t come in with the football rules fully finalised. But we saw the
potential, and saw that we can work with the government here, so we’re
pretty happy.”

A setback to the development of the industry has
been a tendency for speculators to buy and sell concession licences,
with little intention of actually exploring their tenements.

“I
think that was one of the main irritations to the Ministry [of Industry,
Mines and Energy] until the middle of 2005,” Stanger said. “Once
companies like ourselves were really starting exploration they were
quite happy, because until then people were mostly buying and selling
concessions.

“I think they heard that story a lot of times before
we came along. They gave us a bit of rope and we didn’t hang ourselves
with it. We basically went out there and spent the money on the ground.
We’re trying to do everything as properly as we can, as well as working
with local communities and employing people and training people,” he
said.

However, some speculation on concessions was still ongoing.

He
claimed one company recently approached him offering a concession for
US$3 million that they’d only had for three weeks and had done minimal
work on it.

“Just buying and selling, it locks up the mineral
potential of the country,” he said, adding concessions were usually
handed out on the basis that the licence-holder conduct a certain level
of work.

“The potential – there could be some absolute bonanzas
here [in Cambodia] as far as gold, copper and some base metals as well,”
he said.

Phnom Penh Post
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