Cambodia Picks Environment Over Large Titanium Mine

Siamese croc rescued in Cardamom Mountains.

The Cambodian government has canceled a controversial titanium mining project in one of the last remaining intact rainforests in Southeast Asia, citing environmental concerns. In an unexpected announcement, Prime Minister Hun Sen withdrew a concession already granted to the United Khmer Group to mine a 4,400-hectare area in the Cardamom Mountains, citing “the impact on the environment and biodiversity as well as the living standards of the people.”

Environmental groups and local media had fought the project, saying it would threaten Cambodia’s growing ecotourism industry and critical habitat for 70 threatened and vulnerable species, including the critically endangered Siamese crocodile, of which there are estimated to be just 250 in the wild (15 of which are threatened by a hydroelectric dam). The mine also would have blocked the migration route for the largest population of elephants in Cambodia.

“United Khmer Group had promised staggering revenues for the government, and we applaud the courageous decision of the prime minister to see the greater value of the forest as it currently stands,” said Suwanna Gauntlett, CEO of the nonprofit Wildlife Alliance, which led the campaign against the project.

The mining company said it could extract up to $1.3 billion in titanium a year from the strip mine, though it never actually conducted a comprehensive study to verify that.

Photo via Wildlife Alliance from video of croc relocation project.

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