In February of 2011 the Cambodian government recently granted access for the United Khmer Group to tear down part of a rainforest and turn it into a strip-mining site. The company has been given approval from Prime Minister, Hun Sen, for up to 20,400 hectares of land to be mined for titanium. This rainforest was listed as one of the world’s most threatened forests, according to Conservation International, an organization that works to ensure a healthy, sustainable planet for future generations. The people of the villages in and around the forest worry the newly created mines will pollute the surrounding area, including their water source, and will drive away tourism, a major part of their economy. In order for ecotourism to flourish in this area residents have already given up logging the forest and poaching wildlife, both of which can be extremely profitable. Wildlife Alliance, a group that works with communities and governments to improve forest management, invested over half a million US dollars to build infrastructure. They believe that a mine like this will undermine their environmental efforts.
The Wildlife Alliance has spoken out against the creation of mines in this area. They too believe that it could have a devastating impact on the forest. Additionally, the alliance stated that they would do everything in their power to work with the United Khmer Group to reduce environmental damages on the surrounding areas. This won’t be the first time the area has faced environmental dangers. Cambodia’s forest area has already been cut by more than half since 1990, and continues to diminish daily. This area is also home to 14 animal species either on the endangered list or close to being endangered, including the Asian elephant, Siamese crocodile, and Burmese python. John Maloy, the Wildlife Alliance’s Chief Communication Officer, summarized villager’s fears saying, “If they do mining in Chi Phat, everything will disappear.” This mine may only be the beginning. The Phnom Penh Post reported that China is planning additional mines in the Cardamom Mountains encompassing 100,000 hectares.
Sources: “Cambodia Approves Titanium Mine in World’s ‘Most Threatened Forest’” Jeremy Hance, Mongobay.com, February 15, 2011
“Secret Titanium Mine Threatens Cambodia’s Most Untouched Forest”
Jeremy Hance, Mongobay.com, September 1, 2010
Student Researchers: Emily Bichler, JB McCallum, Jordan Niespodziany
Faculty Instructor: Kevin Howley Ph.D.
Evaluator: Tim Cope Ph.D., Geosciences