By Vientiane Times
Vientiane, Laos, October 25, 2016
Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith said yesterday the government will maintain the moratorium on new mining concessions because it needs more time to inspect a number of operations.
The prime minister was speaking at a three-day conference taking place at the National Convention Centre for mining sector officials from around the country and private investors in the industry.
The conference on the management of investment in the mining sector began on Tuesday and ends today.
The prime minister’s statement comes after the government earlier said it was preparing to lift the moratorium in a bid to boost revenue. But Mr Thongloun said the government needs more time to investigate the activities of some concession holders and mining operators.
Some companies hold concessions but are not actively extracting mineral ores while other companies are operating illegally by falling short of the required environmental standards or failing to comply with other government regulations.
“Obviously, the mining sector has generated significant revenue and has contributed to the steady growth of the economy for many years. On the other hand, there have been negative impacts on local communities. In these cases we should consider imposing a suspension on a company’s activities or stop them altogether,” Mr Thongloun said.
A halt to new mining projects would enable the government sectors in charge of the inspection and management of mining projects to monitor all ineffective mining companies in Laos, he added.
“We have to continue our negotiations with substandard mining operators to make sure the government earns a fair income from mining projects as well as reconsidering the benefits and negative impacts of various projects,” he said.
At the same time, the prime minister admitted that a lack of local experts in the mining industry had forced Laos to be in a defensive situation.
Mr Thongloun called for the relevant government bodies to conduct surveys on potential mining sites across the country together with foreign experts prior to concessions being approved.
“In addition, we should consider the preservation of mineral resources for the next generation, otherwise we will have nothing left,” he said.
Over the past five years, the mining sector has generated more than 13.34 trillion kip for government coffers. However, the government admitted that this figure would have been higher if some mining companies had fully complied with the regulations.