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CIIDG Erdos Hongjun Sihanoukville Coal Power Plant

Stung Hav District, Preah Sihanouk Province, Cambodia
Written by Oudom Ham.
Updated on 26 October 2021.
The CIIDG Erdos Hongjun Sihanoukville Coal Power Plant is a 405 MW power plant on Cambodia’s coast in Preah Sihanouk Province. The first Chinese-invested coal plant in Cambodia, the project is jointly developed by local conglomerate Cambodia International Investment Development Group (CIIDG) and the private Chinese firm Erdos Hongjun Electric Power. The three units of the project came online between 2014 and 2017. Concerns exist regarding pollution and the project’s contribution to Cambodia’s carbon emissions. Residents in the area have suffered greatly due to improper handling of coal ash waste from this plant and two other operational plants nearby.

Basic Information

Chinese Name: CIIDG 鄂尔多斯鸿骏西哈努克燃煤电厂项目
Location: Stung Hav District, Preah Sihanouk Province, Cambodia,
Type of Project: Energy (coal)
Project Developers: CIIDG Erdos Hongjun Electric Power Company Limited, a joint venture between Cambodia International Investment Development Group and Inner Mongolia Erdos Hongjun Electric Power Company Limited (a subsidiary of Erdos Group).
Main Contractors: Various Chinese state-owned companies were contracted for the project, including subsidiaries of China Energy Engineering Group Company Limited, China Communications Construction Company, Metallurgical Corporation of China, and IM Energy Group.
Known Financiers: Bank of China
Cost: 383 million USD
Project Status: Operational

Project Outline

The CIIDG Erdos Hongjun Sihanoukville Coal Power Plant was the first Chinese-invested coal plant developed in Cambodia. Agreement to develop the plant was reached in 2010, for a reported cost of 383 million USD. It is a joint venture between Cambodia International Investment Development Group (CIIDG) and the Chinese company Inner Mongolia Erdos Hongjun Electric Power Company Limited. As CIIDG is also involved in a second, larger coal power plant (see the CIIDG–Huadian Sihanoukville Coal Power Plant profile), this project is sometimes referred to as CIIDG 1.

The plant has three 135 MW generators, for a total installed capacity of 405 MW. The first unit came online in 2014, the second in 2015, and the third in 2017. The project was originally planned to include seven 135 MW generators, with a total capacity of 945 MW. However, since the 405 MW of phase 1 connected to the grid in 2017 there has been no news on phase 2 (which would have involved four more 135 MW generators) and the plan seems to have been abandoned. In 2016, it was reported that the plant would power a nearby aluminium factory, but no such factory exists at the time of writing in September 2021. Since then, construction of a new 700 MW plant (the CIIDG–Huadian Sihanoukville Coal Power Plant mentioned above) has commenced in the same district and there is likely no longer the demand to expand the CIIDG Erdos Hongjun plant further.

Image from the company website shows phase 1 (left) and the unrealised phase 2 (right).

As is the case with all Cambodia’s operational coal plants, coal for the project is sourced from Indonesia. As can be seen in the chart below, Indonesian coal accounts for more than 90% of all coal imported by Cambodia.

Cambodia’s Coal Imports (Total versus Indonesia Only)

Source: UN Comtrade.

The increase in coal imports and consumption coincides with the expansion of Cambodia’s coal plants. Existing units began to come online in ​2014:

  • 2014:   Cambodia Electric Limited 1 (CEL1), a Malaysian-owned plant (Unit 1, 60 MW); CIIDG Erdos (Unit 1, 135 MW)
  • 2015:   CEL1 (Unit 2, 60 MW); CIIDG Erdos (Unit 2, 135 MW)
  • 2017:  CIIDG Erdos 3 (Unit 3, 135 MW)
  • 2020:  Cambodia Electric Limited 2 CEL2 (150 MW).

The project developer is CIIDG Erdos Hongjun Electric Power Company Limited (CIIDG 鄂尔多斯鸿骏电力有限公司). This is a joint venture between CIIDG and Inner Mongolia Erdos Hongjun Investment Company Limited (内蒙古鄂尔多斯鸿骏投资有限公司). CIIDG is a local conglomerate, which, according to the Cambodian company register, is owned by the wife and children of Cambodian Senator Lao Meng Khin. CIIDG is linked to several energy-generation and transmission projects, including the CIIDG–Huadian Sihanoukville Coal Power Plant, which is adjacent to this project.

When it was registered, Inner Mongolia Erdos Hongjun Investment was 50% owned by the Erdos Group (内蒙古鄂尔多斯投资控股集团有限公司), a private enterprise from Inner Mongolia, and 50% by Qingdao Dezheng Resources Holding Company Limited(德正资源控股有限公司). The latter company was involved in a corruption scandal in China resulting in its chairman, Chen Jihong, being imprisoned for 23 years in 2018. In 2016 Erdos Group acquired the 50% stake from Dezhang and is now the 100% owner. However, Cambodia’s company register still lists Chen as a director of CIIDG Erdos.

According to a speech by its president, the Phnom Penh Branch of the Bank of China provided a loan for the project, but no specific details were provided. Several Chinese state-owned companies were contracted to work on the project. Some key contractors are listed below.

ContractorUltimate Parent CompanyRole in Project
Northwest No. 3 Electrical Power Construction CompanyChina Energy Engineering Group Company LimitedConstruction and installation of the 3 × 135 MW generating units
Shanxi Electric Power ConstructionChina Energy Engineering Group Company LimitedPlant maintenance
CCCC First Harbour Engineering Co. LtdChina Communications Construction Co.Construction work on two 20,000-tonne bulk cargo berths and jetty for offloading coal
China MCC5 Group CorporationMetallurgical Corporation of China LtdBuilding and installation of boiler-supporting frame structure
Inner Mongolia Electric Power Survey and Design Institute Co. LtdIM Energy GroupDesign work
Tianjin Research Institute for Water Transport EngineeringMinistry of Transportation of ChinaDesign work
CIIDG Erdos plant (outlined in yellow), December 2018. Source: Google Earth.

Project Impacts

  • Pollution: The plant is in a coastal area where local communities are highly dependent on fisheries as a food source and for their livelihoods. No studies have been published that assess the impacts of coal plants on the waters around Stung Hav.
  • Fly Ash: Dust from operational coal plants has had severe impacts on local villages. Coal plants in the area remove coal ash during the power-generation process, which is sold to nearby companies for use in cement making. Improper management of the coal ash has left local villages covered in ash, creating health problems.
  • Climate Change: The CIIDG Erdos plant, along with other coal-fired power plants in operation, under construction, and being planned, moves Cambodia further towards reliance on polluting energy generation, increasing its carbon dioxide emissions, and contributing to the climate crisis.
  • Labour Disputes: During construction in 2013, trainees staged a week-long protest demanding higher wages and improved working conditions. This was apparently resolved, and no other reports of labour conflicts could be found.

Through the 1990s and 2000s, Cambodia faced major challenges in meeting electricity demand. Much of the country’s power was generated from diesel-fuelled power stations or imported from neighbouring countries. This resulted in an expensive and unreliable power supply, especially in the hot season when power demand is higher. From the late 2000s, Chinese investment and finance started to flow into Cambodia’s energy infrastructure and significantly increased domestic generating capacity. This initially focused on supporting hydropower dams and transmission infrastructure, and later expanded to coal plants. These projects have helped Cambodia make progress towards its energy-generation goals, but their social and environmental impacts have raised concerns.

The CIIDG Erdos plant was subject to an environmental impact assessment, which was made public. However, no data have been made public regarding air quality around the plant, which is next to two other operational plants and adjacent to another under construction. Likewise, if any studies have been conducted on the impacts on local water and fisheries, the findings have not been made public, and many local people have concerns about their health.

Local villagers interviewed by the author in August 2020 in Village 2, O’Tres Commune, Stung Hav District, explained that they had met multiple times with local government officials to raise concerns about pollution from the coal ash waste being processed nearby. In addition to the CIIDG Erdos plant, two Malaysian-owned coal plants—the CEL1 and CEL 2 plants—are nearby to the west. Local companies purchase coal ash from the power plants and use it in the production of cement. In the process of transporting, storing, and using the coal ash, it blows into the air and rains down on surrounding villages.

Local people told reporters on multiple occasions that they suffered rashes, sores, hair loss, and breathing problems because of the ash falling on their homes. According to one commune official, 300–400 people were affected. This issue became so severe the provincial government threatened to close the coal ash processing factories on numerous occasions. After years of complaints, the Ministry of Environment came good on these threats in 2021 and ordered one company to cease operations and relocate. Media reports identified the company as Shimao Trading Company Limited (世茂贸易公司) from China’s Hunan Province.

Shimao Trading coal ash processing factory. Photo by the author, August 2020.

Coal ash heap at Shimao factory. Photo by the author, August 2020.

Cambodia has said on many occasions that it is committed to combating climate change, yet in the past few years it has rapidly expanded its coal power production. As of 2020, around 50% of the country’s energy came from hydropower dams, but the current development of coal plants and plans to increase the use of natural gas could flip Cambodia’s energy mix to being almost 75% dependent on fossil fuels. This will make it harder for Cambodia to meet its climate change commitments and impact on the country’s competitiveness as companies seek production bases with clean energy options (for further discussion of this issue, see this essay in the Map’s blog).

During construction, more than 170 trainees at the plant staged a five-day protest seeking higher wages. The company agreed to raise the monthly wages of lower-paid trainees, from 110 USD to 125 USD per month, and of higher-paid trainees, from 130 USD to 140 USD. The firm agreed to raise wages to 350 USD a month after trainees pass their exams. The company also agreed to allow workers to unionise and promised to adhere to all local labour laws, not take punitive action against any of the protesters or punish minor transgressions, and let workers take all public holidays. No other reports on labour disputes could be found in local media.

The company has sent Cambodian trainees to China for training. In 2018, 68 trainees started a two-year course at Northeast Electric Power University’s School of Energy and Power Engineering in Jilin Province.

In-Depth Sources

Grimsditch, Mark. 2021. ‘Chinese Energy Investment in Cambodia: Fuelling Industrialisation or Undermining Development Goals?’ The People’s Map of Global China, 6 May. Link.

Pike, Lili. 2019. ‘Coal Plant Deemed Too Polluting for China Heads to Cambodia.’ China Dialogue, 29 August. Link.

Updates & Corrections

26 October 2021: The text has been updated with information on training provided to Cambodian technicians.

Updated on 26 October 2021.

Oudom Ham is an environmental and human rights consultant. He has expertise in investigative research, fact-finding, and documentation of social and environmental impacts associated with energy development. He closely follows the development of coal-fired power, large-scale hydropower, and clean energy projects in Cambodia and the Greater Mekong Subregion.