The Cambodian government has approved a titanium mine which will lead to the deforestation of over 50,000 acres of rain forest.
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia/WASHINGTON, DC, Feb. 11, 2011 – Prime Minister Hun Sen has approved a land concession to United Khmer Group, a private mining company. The prime minister’s approval came ahead of a meeting on Friday, February 11 at the Council for the Development of Cambodia that was meant to discuss the proposed mining project. United Khmer Group had exploration rights to search for titanium in 20,400 hectares of densely forested land in the Southern Cardamom Mountains.
The decision to approve the mine threatens to devastate one of the last remaining elephant corridors on the continent, put more than 70 endangered and vulnerable species at risk, and degrade one of the world’s largest remaining carbon sink reserves. Months after local villagers initially discovered construction workers bulldozing access roads in June 2010, the Cambodian government’s decision will allow the mining company to exploit the land.
Suwanna Gauntlett, Wildlife Alliance CEO, led the fight against the mine, representing the views of local communities and other environmental groups. Local villagers recognized the mine as a threat to the growing ecotourism industry, agricultural initiatives, forests, and a habitat for one of Cambodia’s largest wild elephant populations.
“This is Cambodia’s natural heritage, its national heritage, and it could all be eliminated by 20,400 hectares of strip mining,” Gauntlett says.
The United Khmer Group projects revenues of more than $1.3 billion a year, numbers that far outpace the market rate for titanium. To date, a comprehensive study to determine the size and concentration levels of the titanium ore deposit has not been conducted.
“Without scientific research to prove the economic viability of the proposed mine,” Gauntlett says, “bulldozing the rainforest is simply destructive and does not even make good business sense.”
Wildlife Alliance calls on United Khmer Group to work closely with communities, the Forestry Administration and environmental groups to minimize the mine's impact on local residents, waterways, and wildlife. Further, we request UKG submit a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment and strictly abide by the regulations laid out in Cambodia’s laws on forestry and mining.
“We recognize that development is essential to Cambodia’s future, but that development must be conducted in a coordinated matter that respects conservation initiatives,” says Suwanna Gauntlett. “We ask that all industrial developers work closely with conservation partners in the Southern Cardamom Mountains to minimize environmental damages associated with economic development. Together we can find solutions to maximize the earning potential of local people while diminishing the harm to wildlife and habitats, local rivers, and downstream fisheries.”
Wildlife Alliance is a non-profit organization based in Cambodia and Washington, D.C., working directly with communities and governments to improve forest management and institute good governance to comprehensively address the devastation of ecosystems and combat the illegal wildlife trade. We actively empower local communities by promoting diversified agriculture, community-based ecotourism, and reforestation. Visit Wildlife Alliance on the Web at: http://www.wildlifealliance.org/.
In Phnom Penh — John Maloy, Chief Communications Officer
+855 78 809 70
In Washington, D.C. — Andrea Kaufmann, Director of Communications and Marketing
+1 202 368 1746