Extractive industries

Quarrying by York Image on May 11, 2013.Creative common attribution: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Industrial quarrying Photo by York Image , taken on May 11, 2013. Licensed under: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Extractive industries include the mining and mineral sectors, and also exploration of natural gas and oil, petroleum refineries and quarrying for construction resources such as sand, stone and gravel.

Cambodia’s extractive resources have gone largely untapped. While these resources are geographically identifiable, as shown on the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) map,1 the size of the mineral lodes is either unknown or has not been widely reported. Cambodia’s mineral resources include copper, gold, iron ore, zinc, lead, tin, bauxite, sapphire, ruby, kaolin and limestone.

The government considers extractive industries an important sector to fuel economic development.2 Revenues, however, remain relatively low, with approximately US$20 million made from mining exports in 2014 (compared to US$116 million in imports of the same),3  and US$3.5 million in non-tax revenue from mining companies in the first six months of 2015.4 Cambodia’s most significant exploitation of minerals is for sand, limestone and gravel for use in the construction industry, and for salt. Gemstones were heavily mined in areas such as Pailin in the 1970s, and are now thought to be mostly exhausted. Artisanal gold mining is important to the traditional livelihoods of indigenous groups, such as the Kuy in Preah Vihear, but is being challenged by commercial operations and exploration licenses.

Under the Constitution, all natural resources are the property of the state,5 and therefore mining conducted without a license is illegal. With the exception of oil and petroleum, most extractive industries are regulated by the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME), formerly the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, or MIME. MME is responsible for licensing, managing and inspecting mining operations, and for ensuring that the provisions of the mining law are respected.6

Licensing is covered by the Law on Managing and Exploring Mineral Resources. As of 30 November 2013 (the most recent data published by the government), the former Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy had issued 465 licenses, and, of this number, 68.4 percent were for exploitation and 31.6 percent for exploration.7

Nearly all of the exploration licenses (95.6 percent) were for construction materials (such as gravel, sand and limestone for cement production) while only 4.4 percent were for precious resources including gold and gemstones.

While sand-dredging operations were granted under pits and quarries licenses in the past, the MME established a restricted licence bidding system in 2015 to restrict the extent of sand dredging, while at the same time increasing government revenue and regulating the price of river-dredged sand.8

While the MME is in charge of issuing and suspending licenses, other ministries including the Ministry of Environment, and the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology have responsibilities when environmental pollution and protected areas are concerned.9 For example, an environmental impact assessment (EIA) — the responsibility of the Ministry of Environment—is required for all oil and gas operations.10

Oil and petroleum

Petroleum activities fall mainly under the jurisdiction of the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority (CNPA), rather than the General Department of Petroleum of the MME. CNPA is responsible for evaluating exploration bids and making recommendations to the government on granting petroleum agreements for specific companies.11

Oil exploration territory is divided into ten offshore blocks (A to F and Area 01 to 04), nineteen onshore blocks (VIII to XXVI), plus an overlapping claims area (OCA) contested with Thailand that measures 27,000km2 [links to Maps of Cambodia’s exploration blocks]. The uncontested onshore and offshore blocks are all administered by the CNPA.12In December 2014, a committee was established to oversee renewed negotiations with the Thai government on the OCA, which has been under dispute since the early 1970s.13

Cambodia currently has no refineries with the capacity to deal with the amount of oil and gas that may be extracted in the future, though work has been underway on a refinery in the Kampot and Preah Sihanouk provinces since it was announced in December 2013.14 To date there is no specific law covering oil and gas in Cambodia, although the government is working on the development of a complete legal framework for the management of petroleum resources.

Last updated: 2 November 2015


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