Energy and Mines Minister Khammany Inthilath, in his address to the National Assembly, stated that since 1990, the Lao Government has had an open policy to attract domestic and international investors to invest in mining operations. Since that time, a total of 229 companies have been authorized to perform mining operations in the country. Among these, 96 are licensed to survey and explore, 52 are permitted to do technical and economic feasibility studies, and 81 are allowed to do excavation and production. There are a total of 18 minerals of interest, including gold, silver, lead, zinc, lignite, barite, and bauxite, among others.
At the provincial level, 443 companies are authorized to perform mining operations involving 21 minerals.
From 2005 to 2015, the aforementioned companies have completed their financial obligations to the government in the form of taxes, royalties and concession payments amounting to USD$ 1.89 billion.
However, the country’s income from mining has dropped significantly due to the severe drop in world prices of minerals in 2016-2017 and also due to the fact that two major projects (Sepon and Phu Bia) are approaching their final stages and will close their respective mines by 2020.
Sepon is an open-pit copper mine in the Savannakhet Province, southern Laos. The registered name of the operating company is Lane Xang Minerals Limited (LXML), of which MMG owns 90% and the Lao Government owns 10%. The operation commenced production in 2005.
Phu Bia Mining, PanAust’s Lao-registered company, has a Mineral Exploration and Production Agreement (MEPA) with the Government of Laos that regulates exploration and mining within the Phu Bia Contract Area, which is more than 2,600 square-kilometres. Their flagship operation comprises an open-pit mine feeding ore to a conventional milling and flotation operation which produces a copper and precious metals concentrate for export to custom smelters mainly in Asia.