Vientiane Times, March 12, 2015
More than 50 mining operators have breached agreements they made with the Lao government, it has emerged as officials in charge take action to inspect mine project operations across the country, according to a report. The violations included many mining projects failing to comply with environmental guidelines, while some did not pay obligation fees to the government and local communities, Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment Dr Bounthavy Sisouphanthong told Vientiane Times yesterday.
The infringers have been and will be warned to strictly follow the agreements, Dr Bounthavy said. The inspection came after the government learnt about ineffective operations at some mine projects as well as the issues arising in relation to some rubber and eucalyptus plantation projects. Since 2012, the government suspended consideration and approval for new mines, rubber and eucalyptus projects and launched the inspection in an attempt to properly regulate the existing mining and tree plantation investment projects. Dr Bounthavy said it was still unclear when the suspension will be removed saying the officials in charge are still inspecting the issue.
“We expect to complete the inspection and assessment [on the mine, rubber and eucalyptus plantation projects] by this year and report the findings to the government,” he said. The government is expected to make a decision later as to whether to reopen consideration and approval for new mines, rubber and eucalyptus projects. However, consideration and approval remains open for those mines that are needed to supply raw materials for domestic industries such as coal, limestone, clay and gypsum.
The report was presented at the government monthly meeting for February. In response, the cabinet instructed the concerned sectors to keep inspecting the mines as well as the rubber and eucalyptus projects. Those projects whose operations were found to be ineffective must have their operations suspended and their concessions must not be extended, the cabinet instructed. Currently, a total of 561 mine projects across the country have been approved, according to the report. The report issued to cabinet highlighted that the management of mine projects was not centralised, which resulted in the fact that areas allocated for some mines projects approved by different departments overlapped those issued by other departments. Worse, some mines projects undertook mineral exaction without undertaking a prior survey that led to some loss of natural resources.
The cabinet also learnt about some of the challenges surrounding rubber plantation projects, notably the rapid decline in rubber prices on the world market and also the insufficient supply of labourers to tap the mature trees. So far, a total of 226 rubber and eucalyptus plantation projects have been approved nationwide.
This article is also available in Lao language ອ່ານເປັນພາສາລາວ