The Lao government will not be granting mining project approvals or rubber plantation concessions for the next four years, under a new moratorium aimed at halting the loss of agricultural land and forests. During this period, the government says land surveys and assessments will be made to address the decline in rich farming land to produce food for the country’s 6 million people.  1

The Land Issues Working Group chairman, Nishan Disanayake, says the moratorium doesn’t go far enough. He wants the government to include projects which have already received approval, but have yet to start operating.

“The government’s state land concession inventory study showed that for one province 50% of the projects approved had not yet been implemented. If that is an indication, I would strongly suggest that the government considers bringing a halt to further clearing of land during this period in order to prevent villages losing their land and forest,” he said.

The majority of the Laos population lives in rural areas, relying on agriculture for their livelihoods. The average annual per capita income is just over $1000. During the last 15 years, an increasing number of off-shore companies from China, Vietnam and Thailand have bought up the farm land for mining and hydro power resources, earning the government much needed revenues.

Nishan Disanayake says not much of that has been seen by the local communities whose land and food resources are lost to them.

The government says it will establish a new process of assessing projects for their social and environmental impact.

In other news, Canadian-based explorer AsiaBaseMetals has terminated its definitive purchase and sale agreement for the indirect acquisition of a majority share in the Vientiane potash property in Laos. The company announced in January this year it was entering into an agreement to purchase a 90% stake in the local company which owns the 16sqkm project in the Huaxieng-Xaithany area. The company’s president Raj Chowdrey say fundamental terms of the arrangement had not been fulfilled.