The government is planning to take action in addressing the illegal mineral extractions reportedly found in Paek district of northern Xieng Khuang province. A resident from the district voiced his concerns through the National Assembly (NA) session hotline in regards to the environmental danger the extraction has caused.
The resident said villagers did not dare to use the water along the river, adding that chemical substances were being used in mineral extractions upstream. Following an inspection, the Minister of Energy and Mines Mr Soulivong Daravong told a press conference held on Friday at the closing of the session that the extractions were illegal.
Despite the fact that the area where the mining was reported being within the concession area given to Phu Bia Mining company, Mr Soulivong said the government had not permitted any party to carry out extraction activities. “I confirm that the government has not yet permitted any party, including Phu Bia Mining, to carry out mineral extractions in the area,” he told the conference.
Mr Soulivong said illegal mineral extractions had been uncovered in the province from time to time and despite the government taking action to address the issue, it was still an ongoing problem. He thanked the resident for bringing this issue to the government’s attention and assured them that his ministry would work with relevant sectors to address the issue.
Illegal and unregulated small-scale extractions triggering environmental concern have been reported to occur several times over the past few years. Officials from the Ministry of Energy and Mines said it was common practice for local people to extract minerals such as gold from rivers using cyanide without proper knowledge of how to use it safely. Investors who were granted permission to excavate sand and rocks along the river for construction purposes were reportedly extracting minerals illegally and had covered it up with their authorised excavation.
In the NA ordinary session held in July last year, the NA asked the government to formulate regulations to govern small-scale mining and mineral extraction projects, including those carried out by locals, after learning of the operations causing significant environmental impact. At the July session, the NA concluded that small-scale mining and mineral extraction projects used methods that leak harmful chemicals into the soil and water. Adding that, such practices had become an “emerging issue’ in many provinces.
Source: Vientiane Times