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Govt considers revoking 10 mining concessions

Vientiane Times, 28 April 2014

The government will consider revoking investment concessions for about 10 mining projects whose investors have failed to abide by relevant laws and agreements they made with the government. Poor performance of the investors was found by a committee in charge of launching an assessment inspection of mining projects across the country in a move to ensure mining investment effectiveness.

Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Mr Noulin Sinbandith, whose ministry is a member of the committee, said on Friday the committee would approach the government and propose considering revocations. “The 10 investors have not observed the right steps in their mining survey, nor the relevant regulations and laws,” Mr Noulin said, adding that the assessment is underway and set to complete by 2015.

The minister spoke to local media during his attendance at a meeting in Vientiane between the government cabinet, the Vientiane Mayor and provincial governors that ended on Friday. He said some companies have financial problems or insufficiently qualified experts, while others have not implemented the projects within the appropriate time after getting the concession deal from the government, all of which would justify the consideration of a revocation.

The assessment was made following the government’s decision made in June, 2012 to suspend concessions for new mines, rubber farms and eucalyptus plantations after learning that many investors have breached agreements and relevant laws. In total, 470 mine projects amounting to US$5.9 billion have been approved by the government, according to a report from the Ministry of Planning and Investment released last December.

Of the total, 204 mine projects have been approved by the central government and the rest approved by local authorities. Eight standards have been used to assess the nine projects including the immediate action the investors take to carry out the projects, compliance with relevant agreements, regulations and laws, environmental management and contribution to nearby communities development, according to the Ministry of Planning and Investment.

Once the assessment is completed, the government intends to review mining policy before giving new consideration to issuing concessions for mine projects after 2015 in order to make sure that Laos will maximise its benefit from the mining sector, Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment Dr Bounthavy Sisouphanthong said. He said the planned review of the policy was due to the fact that Laos feels it has received unreasonably low revenue from mining concessions.

Despite new concessions for mine projects having been prohibited by the government since June 2012, an exception has been made for coal in order to meet the local demand for coal by manufacturing companies such as cement factories, according to the ministry.

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