Fifteen individuals are being questioned by prosecutors following their arrests for the alleged illegal mining of marble in Stung Treng province.
Chea Sopheak, spokesperson for the provincial court’s prosecution, said the 15 individuals worked for Granda International Steel, though he would not elaborate on whether they were workers, supervisors or owners.
They were arrested over two days on Saturday and Sunday, and questioning was ongoing, Sopheak said.
Hem Savy, chief of O’Rai commune in Thala Barivat district, said local villagers had reported the drilling to authorities last month, and local authorities had already warned the company to stop. “Later they continued to run their operation,” she said.
Military police made the arrests over the weekend, and confiscated drilling equipment and other materials, Savy said.
“According to information we have received, they came to drill the rock to see whether they could extract from them or not,” she said.
The excavation was happening on five sites in a local pond, she added. There was a separate, licensed marble-mining operation nearby that had been mining for about five years, she said.
Nou Sovannara, director of the provincial department of mines and energy, said Granda had been mining without a license.
“They’ve made a request to the ministry for a license, but they have not received it,” Sovannara said.
The suspects were prosecuted under Article 33 of the Law on Mineral Resources, he said.
The law stipulates a fine of 500,000 to 1 million riel (about $125 to $250) on the first offense, and a 1-2 million riel fine ($250 to $500) and/or one month to one year imprisonment for repeat offenders.
The law applies to “any person who conducts the operation of the mineral resource exploration without a mineral resource license,” it says.
Sovannara said the case was the first prosecution for illegal mining in the province this year.
The nearby, licensed marble operation worked on 360 hectares of land, he added.
A man who answered the phone number for Granda listed with the Commerce Ministry said he was not involved with the company.