Renaissance Minerals (Cambodia) Ltd, a subsidiary of Australia-listed Emerald Resources NL, has obtained a licence to explore for gold in a 107.10sq km area in Tbong Khmum province’s easternmost Memot district, a senior Ministry of Mines and Energy official told The Post on September 15.
Renaissance is also behind the 1.14-megaounce Okvau Gold Project in southwestern Mondulkiri province’s Keo Seima district, which began commercial operation on June 21, in a first for the Kingdom. Pre-production capital costs totalled $120 million, Emerald affirmed.
Ministry director-general for Mineral Resources Ung Dipola recalled that Letter No 070, signed by minister Suy Sem and dated December 21, allowed Renaissance to enter the final stage of the exploration licence approval process for the Memot Project.
He noted that the ministry then granted initial approval to carry out gold exploration at the site as well as the three-year Metal Mining Exploration Licence No 0001, dated January 27.
Although the licence was only formally issued months later after the necessary documentation was completed, it still has an expiration date listed as January 27, 2024, as Dipola pointed out.
He emphasised that various laws, sub-decrees and other legal instruments administered by the ministry oblige mining companies to conduct mineral exploration before any commercial mining in the licensed plot can take place.
And prior to any exploration work, the firms must complete an Integrated Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (IESIA) report approved by the ministry, he explained.
He recounted how Renaissance exploration and environmental teams conducted an initial field visit to the area of tenement, introducing themselves to the local authorities and sharing plans for the exploration work.
Dipola remarked that the site is geologically highly prospective for gold deposits, and located in the Sampov Loun area of northwestern Choam Tamao commune, in central Memot (GPS Coordinates: 11.92N, 106.23E).
“Based on compiled pre-existing geological information, we can only postulate that there could be ore formations typically associated with gold-bearing deposits, but more detailed studies are needed to determine the extent of the ore body and to make a definitive assessment of the true potential of the area,” he said.
The ministry cannot provide a reliable estimate at this time for the amount of gold-equivalent metal that Renaissance can expect to extract from the project, he stressed, indicating that the company has commenced exploration work.
Ascertaining the exact amount of gold contained in the Memot project will require time, as well as significant technical and financial resources, he said.
Tbong Khmum provincial governor Cheam Chansophorn welcomes the investment in his province, and looks forward to the employment opportunities the project could generate for locals.
At a meeting with Renaissance representatives on September 9, the governor vowed that the competent authorities would work with the company and ensure that exploration work moves smoothly, but appealed to the firm to be conscious of locals’ concerns and to resolve any potential grievances related to project activities in an appropriate manner.
“There are some people who depend on the area, working in family-run operations to extract gold-laden ores and earn money to support their households, even with the spread of Covid-19 hanging in the background,” Chansophorn said.
Dipola underlined that structural reforms in the mining sector have led to a number of companies being stripped of their licences, citing failure to find a mineable ore deposit in sites under exploration within six-to-eight years as a reason.
As of September 15, he said, only 22 companies hold valid mining exploration licences for iron, gold, copper, molybdenum, bauxite, limestone and coal in 34 concession areas spanning across a cumulative 4,711.55sq km.
These include international companies from China, Australia and Japan, he noted, highlighting that all local licensees have foreign partners.
He added that 19 firms hold valid mining extraction licences for gold, iron, bauxite, limestone, silica sand and coal in 19 concession areas.
Cambodia is pinning hopes on the nascent mining sector to contribute to post-Covid-19 economic recovery, deliver social benefits to local communities, and progress and enhance overall diversification strategies to better manage against uncertainty risks.
Renaissance’s other mining tenement, the Okvau Gold Project, is designed to process nearly two million tonnes of ore per year, expected to yield an annual average of three tonnes – over eight years – of dore bars containing 90 per cent gold, the mines minister previously reported.
Cambodia expects this project alone to generate $185 million per annum in pre-tax cashflow, with $40 million from royalties and taxes transferred to the national budget, according to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
On the Australian Stock Exchange, Emerald’s share price, trading under the ticker symbol “EMR”, inched up A$0.020 (1.46 US cents) or 2.30 per cent to close at A$0.89 ($0.65) on September 16 for a market capitalisation of A$448.39 million, with 256,984 shares traded.