Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Cambodia's Elephants Lose Fight Against Mine -- For Now


via CAAI

posted by: Laura B.

By Andrea Kaufmann, Wildlife Alliance

Our fight against the titanium mine began in June.

Villagers stumbled upon construction workers and bulldozers in a remote part of the forest and started to ask questions.

They found out a private mining group, United Khmer Group (UKG), was involved. The development threatened more than 50,000 acres of land that was vital to the elephant corridor, to more than 70 endangered and vulnerable species as well as one of the last untouched rainforests in all of Asia.

Quickly, Wildlife Alliance worked with communities to mobilize. Thousands living in the surrounding communities -- many currently making their living through innovative ecotourism initiatives or reforestation activities -- signed a petition protesting the mine.

Suwanna Gauntlett, CEO at Wildlife Aliiance, led ministry officials from across the Cambodian government through tours of Chi Phat so they could experience firsthand the vitality of the communities, they celebrated the economic successes families were experiencing, recognized the value in preserving forests and the vital elephant corridor, and heard the strong case for protection.

The mining company made its case as well, promising high levels of immediate revenue from the titanium mine. They showcased charts and graphs that promised returns never before seen and certainly not taking into account the economies of existing communities dependent on the region’s forests or long-term impacts on the forests and wildlife.

For us, the fight happened at every level of government with local communities leading the way. The desire to influence the decision was immense both in Cambodia and around the world. From scores of countries, people signed on to a petition protesting the mine -- asking the Cambodian government to stand for the future and the Southern Cardamoms Protected Forest.

Unfortunately, we lost a battle Friday, February 11, when the Cambodian government granted UKG the concession, but we are committed to not lose the fight for the Cardamom Mountains.

Even in the case of the titanium mine, we will continue to exert pressure on the government to reverse its decision.

We will also call on the United Khmer Group to work closely with the government, environmental organization and local communities to minimize the impact on the forests, wildlife and communities.

We’ll demand a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment be done and that they strictly abide by the regulations laid out in the laws on forestry and mining.

Please join us in fighting for one of the last remaining elephant corridors in Southeast Asia. For the carbon sink reserves that stand strong in the fight against global warming. For the more than 70 endangered or vulnerable species. For the thriving communities whose economies are powered by ecotourism, agriculture and forestry.

We cannot cede the Cardamoms. Too much is at stake.

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