|Laos considering "halt to mining"
Prospects for the mining sector in Laos remain unclear as members of the national legislature mull a more interventionist approach to operators with relevant labor, taxation or environmental laws.
A National Assembly legislator said Monday that
Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith is even considering a "halt to mining operations altogether."
"The Prime Minister is even considering permanently solving the problem by putting a halt to mining operations altogether", state-run Vientiane Times quoted a National Assembly member for Vientiane Buakham Thipphavong as saying.
Legislators have lately expressed their concern on the mining sector including foreign ownership and compliance issues. One member has called for a more economic pro--nationalist approach to sector development.
"We should leave the mining up to Lao companies who have a stake in the development of the country and can be held more accountable for their actions," Vilaysouk Phimmasone, NA member for Xieng Khuang province, was quoted as saying.
"I disagree with the extent to which foreign mining companies control the country's mineral wealth as they extract the minerals and then leave the mess for local people and government to clean up, without even delivering on their promises of infrastructure development and job creation."
Environmental impact and labor and taxation compliance were also issues raised by the legislators.
Rich in natural resources and sparsely populated, Laos has long relied on resource rents from the mining industry in exchange for foreign currency reserves required for public expenditure and to pay down foreign debts, though policymakers are increasingly looking to hydroelectric power generation export as a replacement. Concerns on the social and ecological costs of mining particularly by less sophisticated operations coinciding with persistent low commodity prices, are expected to see the continuation of a 2012-instituted moratorium on new ventures and perhaps towards a permanent sector-wide cessation.