NA Member Reveals Costly Toll of Illegal Mining on Lao Economy, Calls for Govt Action

Mr. Deng Pathoumthong, the 18th Constituency of Xaysomboun Province, speaks during the ongoing 5th Ordinary Session of the 9th National Assembly Legislature.

During the ongoing 5th Ordinary Session of the 9th National Assembly Legislature, Mr. Deng Pathoumthong, a constituent from Xaysomboun Province, pointed out that illegal mining operations cost the Lao economy millions of dollars annually.

While illicit mining and exploration activities remain severe challenges in Xaysomboun and other provinces, Deng said that many approved mining projects fail to conduct adequate economic feasibility studies, technical studies, or environmental, social, and natural evaluations before starting operations.

He further asserted that government authorities need to maintain a firmer hand in monitoring the quality and concentration of minerals being excavated and ensure that the financial benefits of mining projects don’t come at the cost of depleting natural resources.

He pointed out that due to mismanaged mining practices, overloaded trucks carrying minerals have damaged the country’s infrastructure, and approximately 6,700 km of roads across the country are currently in poor shape because of such vehicles.

Additionally, he pointed out that while some mining companies may have Lao names, their owners and operators are not from Laos, and the amount of minerals being exported by these organizations also remains unclear.

According to him, the feasibility of mining operations needs to be reassessed every couple of years so that such projects are not being executed at the cost of damage to forests, wildlife, and local communities living nearby.

Illegally mining natural minerals has also been a persistent issue in Laos, as seen by the recent arrests of residents in Xieng Khouang and Savannakhet provinces who were found to be in possession of illegally mined minerals.

In the NA session, Deng urged the government to take action to crack down on illicit mining operations and ensure all approved mining projects follow the law as well. He added that consistent efforts on this front are critical for environmental protection, economic growth, and improving the lives of the Lao people.