Laos is seeking help from the Chinese government to conduct detailed surveys of its mineral wealth, aiming to use the information to help regulate the mining industry.
Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines Somboun Rasasombath said as quoted in the South China Morning Post this week that he would discuss the matter with Chinese Deputy Minister of Land and Resources, Wang Min, at the China-ASEAN Mining Co-operation Forum in China.
“A lack of knowledge about our mineral wealth meant it was difficult for us to challenge our investors, even if we suspected some of them were lying about the amount of work they had done and the resources they had found,” Rasasombath said.
“My advice to would-be investors is that they’d better conduct their own geological work before purchasing any projects.”
The Lao government only has a rough idea of the locations of many mineral deposits, since it lacks the resources to conduct detailed prospecting and has to rely on preliminary geological surveys conducted many years ago by countries such as France, Russia, China and Britain.
Less than 5 % met contractual exploration commitments to the government.
The government of Laos suspended approvals of new mine exploration licences in June last year until 2015 saying it needs to review the investment licences it has allocated to mining firms.
Rasasombath said less than 5 per cent of the 355 mining projects that have been granted mining licences in Laos have met their contractual exploration commitments to the government.
Many of the companies are trading and investment firms, which are sitting on their exploration licences waiting for their projects to be bought out by others at a premium.
“Most of these firms have done a poor job in delivering their promises, while some have caused environmental damage and affected the livelihood of our communities,” Rasasombath said.
Some firms have managed to extend the validity of their exploration licences to more than 10 years, although they are supposedly not extendable after six years, as Vientiane has taken an accommodative attitude in the past to encourage more investments.
The existence of a large number of unexploded cluster bombs in Laos, dropped during the Indochina war, means investors have to spend money to clear them before mining.
“Our government has approved too many projects in the past, which our regulatory resources cannot cope with,” Rasasombath said. “We also need to improve laws related to mining and better train our staff to thoroughly review all 355 projects on their progress.”
Mining contributes 9 % of Laos’ GDP and 20 % of the government revenue
Laos has ample resources of gold, copper, iron ore, potash, lead, zinc and sapphires.
Vice President Hao Chuanfu of the state-owned China Minmetals Non-ferrous Metals, the parent of the Hong Kong-listed MMG, said MMG had no new exploration projects in Laos but would seek to expand on its Sepon copper mine.
The mine’s output grew 7.1 per cent last year to 85,150 tonnes. With sales of US$806 million and operating profit of US$491 million last year, it contributed 9 per cent of Laos’ gross domestic product and 20 per cent of the government’s revenue.Source: Vientiane Times – Laos seeks Chinese help to survey its mineral wealth Related articles:
- Laos looks to Beijing for minerals help (scmp.com)
- Laos’ Mammoth Train Project a Fast Track to Debt and Despair (world.time.com)
- Hydropower, mining boost growth in Laos (investvine.com)
- Laos Approved for U.S. $5 Billion Loan for Rail Project (thediplomat.com)
- Mining in Laos growing fast (myresources.com.au)
- Chinese investments in Cambodia ignore environment queries (chinadailymail.com)
- China secures potential Cambodian iron ore (chinadailymail.com)