Lao authorities have admitted that Laos is facing increasing negative impacts from mining industry, especially on the environment, due to failure by the companies or investors to abide by the regulations and agreements they signed with the Lao government.
Mr. Langsy Sibounheuang, Deputy Prosecutor-General of the Lao Supreme Court, admitted that violations of regulations and agreements continued to increase during 2009, both in civil and criminal cases, as seen in the number of suits brought in front of the Lao People's Court during the past year, which totaled as many as 8,000 and more than 42% of those were criminal cases .
Moreover, results of secret investigations of the appeals by local people in different areas show that there are widespread violations of regulations and provisions of investment agreements by investors, especially in the mining industrial sector, which have caused significant and unavoidable impacts on the environment.
So far the Lao government has granted licenses to 154 domestic and foreign companies to conduct surveys and mineral explorations across the country in a total of 266 projects. More than half of those projects have been granted to 118 foreign companies.
According to a report by the Lao Energy and Mining Ministry, of all the projects that have been approved, only 49 have reached the excavation and production stages. The remaining 217 projects are mostly still in the survey and feasibility study stages, including are oil and gas exploration projects in Savannakhet and Salavan provinces, as well as boxite and aluminum processing projects in Salavan, Champassack, and Attapeu in the South of Laos.
The Lao government has set a goal to increase its exports of mineral products during 2010 at least 8% from a year ago. Mineral exports are considered the main source of hard currency earnings for Laos, with the major products being gold and copper which are expected to bring in a total of 800 million dollars for 200,000 ounces of gold and 100,000 tons of copper exported.
Listen to Songrit's report for more details in Lao.