A group of Chinese companies who have received permission from the Lao government to explore for bauxite and found adequate deposits in a 24,600 hectare area in the Boleven Plateau in Champassack province said they have almost completed the social and environmental impact studies and will present the results to Lao authorities by mid-March.
The companies went on to say that, if approved, they will immediately start building a giant bauxite processing plant, which will become the biggest in Southest Asia, adding that they expect construction to be completed by 2010 or 2011 at the latest.
Meanwhile, the Lao government has granted permission to Vietnamese energy companies to explore for oil and gas in a 10 km2-area between Champassack and Salavan provinces. Officials say the exploration and feasibility studies will take at least five years.
In another development, The Lao government has accepted offers from Vietnam and China to carry out a survey for potential mineral deposits across the country.
Laos is known to be rich in gold, copper, aluminum and iron. The government has so far granted exploration and mining rights to some 123 foreign companies in a total of 196 projects. 45 of those have reached mining and production stages, and have exported their outputs.
The Energy and Mining Ministry says Laos' mining sector expanded 27.4% in 2007. Gold and copper ores from Australia's Oxiana Resources' Sepone mines were the biggest exports with an aggregate value of over 500 million dollars.
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