April 9, 2011

Cambodia PM nixes controversial mine project


Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has cancelled a controversial titanium mine project by the Khmer United Group in the country's southwest because of environmental concerns, the government said Friday.

The premier announced the ban on the much-criticised project during a weekly cabinet meeting, the government said in a statement, despite earlier granting a private company a 20,400-hectare (50,400-acre) concession for surface mining in the densely forested Cardamom Mountains.

"Due to concerns about the impact on the environment and biodiversity as well as the living standards of the people... Hun Sen has banned the exploitation of a titanium mine in Koh Kong province," it said.

The Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy, Suy Sem reported in a February 1 letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen that the area has the potential to produce 35 million tons of titanium.

Wildlife Alliance, a conservation group that campaigned for months against the proposed mine, said it was "thrilled" with the decision.

"We were under the impression the battle was lost," communications officer John Maloy told AFP.

"We are very pleased that the prime minister has weighed the environmental impact."

He said the mine would have been located "directly in the middle of an elephant corridor" and a nearby eco-tourism village "stood to be ruined by the project".

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