As you know, mining occupies a big part of the economy in Laos. It's exports account for around 50 % of Laos' total exports and a great part of the Lao GDP and investment. For that reason, there are many significant issues and various information is available. What follows is some relevant information regarding the mining industry. It is possible to check from the map where concessions have been granted for mining. You can check the information such as which company has right to mine and which mineral resources are available etc. from a broadsheet sized map (for information how to get this, refer to the “Where to buy maps” ) that is regularly updated.
If there is no claim or concession marked on the map, then theoretically equal opportunity is given to anyone to apply [ for a concession] however in practice, it is not easy to obtain permission. Many companies that have held mining concessions for a prolonged period, have delayed operations then finally sell the mining right to another company. Also the Lao government has had concerns about delays in exploration and utilization of the mineral resources and have officially canceled mining concessions where it ascertained no real progress had been made. Cancellation of mining rights by the government may apply to companies that have delayed utilizing concessions without lawful mitigating circumstances. In unoccupied land outside of mining concession areas, no one has exclusive rights of exploitation of minerals. However, it doesn't mean that anyone has concessions rights to unoccupied land.
This is a map that shows a particular locality which has been subject to concession applications and already has a number of confirmed concession areas. You can obtain this map on the 4th floor at the Mining Authority office. If you specify GPS coordinates, it is very easy to get information such as which companies have applied for concessions and which ones have been successful for the areas defined by the co-ordinates. To print this map costs around 80,000 kip, there is no set pricing. The square or diamond pegged areas have different colors on the map. One color denotes one application for a concession. On closer examination, figures overlap at some points. This signifies different organizations have applied for a concession at a particular locality and it has not yet been confirmed by the government who will be granted exclusive rights.
If you propose certain advantages and convince the government of your company's capability, your bid may chosen from among your competitors. However, there is no specific time frame and criteria, so it is somewhat difficult to make recommendations for success in this area. If you are the only one to file for a concession for a particular locality, you need to prove your company's capability then it might not be too difficult to obtain permission. It may cause difficulties, when a company that has applied for a concession tries to on sell the application. If the company that has applied offers objective drilling and assay data, and has it independently verified by a 3rd party then there should be no problem.
However, many companies do not drill or perform realistic sampling procedures, but only check the surface layers, then attempt to dazzle a potential buyer by speculating that it contains a “rich vain”.
Additionally, some purport to have concessions of exclusive rights for specific areas or claim to be able to obtain such. A buyer has to perform due diligence to verify these matters.
If they are to obtain a concession from the government, they would have produce drilling and assay data. This means there is no problem for a potential buyer check to verify it. Unfortunately, many companies do not present objective drill or assay data, but persist with unverified claims on paper.
If a buyer has the capability, they can directly apply for permission to exploratory drill at a specific area. If there are many companies still competing for a concession, it might be still be in the process of approval for a particular company or no one has performed enough due diligence to present objective facts to the Lao authorities for the particular concession, up to that point.
Those who are interested in the mining industry, should use common sense and caution in business to avoid the loss of time and money.
In reality the mining industry is not yet developed in Laos. There are not many companies attempting exploratory drilling operations, and you hardly see drilling sub-contractors. If you can find them they tend to be inexperienced and quite expensive.
Oxiana (now named OZ, MMG : trading as the Minerals and Metals Group), pioneered something of a mining boom in Laos, and Phu Bia Mining have also explored and drilled independently. Since that time Laos has been crowed out with a lot of minor companies (known as “juniors” in Australasian mining parlance). Some applied for concessions long ago, but have now vanished without a trace. Some of them try to trade “letters of application” as a pre-cursor for a concession. Expectations of making millions of dollars with such activities often pass the bounds of common sense.
As an example, Oxiana (now MMG) took over a particular mining tenement for 3 million dollars from an exploration company, on the basis of procured data. Phu Bia Mining also did the same but structured the contract options so they only paid a small amount initially. Therefore, you can consider the price of application reasonable. If you draw up the document, it is not difficult to apply.
It is a different story to approaching the companies with a concession. They have permission for mining and they might be considering or already be surveying a similar area. With exploration companies, you can negotiate prices, however it is not easy for lack of suitable organizations with the capability. In countries that have developed mining industries like Australia and Canada, it is comparatively easy to find exploration companies with the requisite specialized analysts, here in Laos, it is almost impossible to find such.
One more factor is evaluating the MOU [ Memorandum of Understanding ] realistically. The MOU it carries no legal binding force. Some companies regard the MOU as a concession, but it is not going to help start your mining business.
It might not be easy to find maps showing details of regional areas, but you can find a 1: 20,000 scale map easily. If you go to the “Where to buy maps” link, it details the address of the Mining Authority office. You are able to get enough information from that map covering all provincial areas in the Lao PDR.
Chemicals and processing agents for mining sites, are not easy to obtain in Laos. However, you can get these materials from Bangkok. If you go to the rear of the Chinatown area in Bangkok (towards old siam), there are suppliers of chemicals and associated materials equipment for mining.