Mining in the Eastern Plains Landscape | WWF

Cambodia's Eastern Plains Landscape Under Threat

One of the planet’s most important wildlife habitats – a threatened haven for iconic species such as elephant, leopard and hundreds of bird species.

The Protected Areas of Mondulkiri Province supports 34 species of global significance, including Cambodia’s potentially largest population of elephants, the world’s largest populations of banteng and yellow cheeked crested gibbon, and critical populations of indo-chinese leopards. In addition, this area supports more than 334 bird species, including at least 14 listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as globally Threatened. The Eastern Plains Landscape (EPL) has also been considered as a potential location to restore tiger (Panthera tigris) population in the Cambodia Tiger Action Plan (April 2016). It also holds great recovery potential for many ungulate species.

However, this landscape is under assault on all fronts, from poaching to illegal logging to mining. There are 13 mining licenses across the landscape, which is already being chipped away by economic land concessions and other forms of habitat loss.

Wildlife of the EPL

© Maelle Pelisson / WWF-Cambodia

As of April 2017, there are 13 mining licenses within Mondulkiri Province, many of which are in protected areas.

With mining comes pollution, infrastructure from transmission lines and access roads, extraction machinery and buildings, in-migration from workers and other impacts. WWF does not support mining or any other development projects inside protected areas and believes that a Cumulative Impact Assessment should be done before any extraction licenses are granted. WWF supports mining only if it is conducted responsibly with no net loss of biodiversity and the company contributes to conservation efforts. WWF recognizes the significant benefits that mining can bring to the country; responsible mining could in fact be part of the solution to poverty as it is an engine of economic and social development.

Alternative Sustainable Development

Mondulkiri Province is a national pride and has other options for sustainable development that do not require devastating the environment with a patchwork quilt of mining concessions. These include:
  • Ecotourism - Through community-based natural resource management and by developing high value/low impact ecotourism as a source of income for local communities, Cambodia can secure the future of these ecosystems. Ecotourism can generate financing for conservation activities, support local livelihoods, and ensure the financial stability of the protected areas in the EPL.
  • Tiger Reintroduction - The Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary has been recognized as the First Priority Site in the Cambodia Tiger Action Plan of the Department of WIldlife and Biodiversity, Forestry Administration. If tiger reintroduction is successful, Cambodia would become the world leader in large carnivore conservation.
  • NTFP Collection - Smallholders in Mondulkiri Province in the EPL use a wide range of non-timber forest products (NTFPs), which provide basic needs and livelihoods for local indigenous communities. WWF is working with communities to broaden these practices in order to help reduce pressure on natural forests and biodiversity.
  • Sustainable Commodities - Mondulkiri offers fertile, productive soil. If commodities such as pepper, rubber or cassava are cultivated with a strict set of sustainability criteria and developed following an ecosystem services-based land use planning, they can bring sustainable development to the province. Companies should implement a zero-deforestation policy as well as a robust system of verification and traceability. Companies reliant on forest scosystem services should also join the conservation efforts by participating in sustainable financing mechanisms for forest protection.
© WWF-Greater Mekong