Australian charge d’affaires Luke Arnold said compatriot Renaissance Minerals (Cambodia) Ltd’s commercialisation of gold in southwestern Mondulkiri province’s Okvau area will underpin Cambodia’s goal to diversify its foreign investment profile and assist the Kingdom in building a more resilient economy.
Arnold and Australian embassy second secretary Rhys Haynes on June 21 joined the energy and environment ministers and other senior Cambodian government officials for a ceremony marking the commencement of gold mining operations at the Okvau Gold Project in Mondulkiri’s Keo Seima district.
Owned by the Australian Stock Exchange- (ASX) listed company Emerald Resources NL, Renaissance established the project – Cambodia’s first commercial gold mine – and will operate it.
Arnold said the embassy is “pleased that an Australian mining business is helping support the Royal Government of Cambodia’s goal of diversifying its sources of foreign investment.
“Investments from Australia, like this project, will ultimately assist Cambodia to build a more resilient economy and a balanced strategic outlook in our region.”
Prime Minister Hun Sen on June 21 took to Facebook to congratulate all parties involved with the commercialisation of the project.
He said the undertaking was nearly 14 years in the making, following successful feasibility studies and environmental impact assessments.
Construction of the necessary infrastructure and facilities to support the gold project started in mid-2020, with a total investment of around $120 million, he said.
“The start of operations makes it clear that our past efforts in the mining sector were indeed viable, and we can extract natural resources from underground and reap their benefits for our socio-economic system, with high accountability for the environment and society.”
“[But] the launch of the gold industry is not just an invitation to encourage people to take up gold mining businesses – it is one of the most risky ventures, and requires a lot of capital and specialised skills,” the prime minister cautioned.
According to the embassy, the Cambodian government estimates that the Okvau Gold Project will generate more than $300 million in tax revenues and royalties over seven years, which will provide vital funding for public services and help offset the economic impact of Covid-19.
Emerald Resources has committed to applying high environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards throughout the project, in line with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and relevant Cambodian legislation, it said.
It added that it understands that the project’s Environmental and Social Impact Statement was the first of its kind to be audited to the International Financial Corporation’s (IFC) Environmental and Social Performance Standards.
And the charge d’affaires said the IFC’s audit “sets a high bar for future projects and will help ensure that the emerging Cambodian mining industry can attract interest from high-quality international mining companies, which will be more likely to deliver benefits for the Cambodian people and minimise negative environmental and social impacts”.