KOTA KINABALU, Nov 30 — A controversial RM2 billion silica sand mining project in Sikuati, Kudat has received the greenlight to continue despite environmental concerns after the proposed environmental impact assessment (EIA) was given to its Chinese investors.
Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Dr Joachim Gunsalam said that a development plan was given to the Kibing Group to begin construction of its factory.
“Meanwhile, approval conditions on the EIA report to extract silica sand was also given to the company,” he said in his speech read by assistant industrial development minister Mohd Tamin Zainal at the State Assembly today.
The company, China-owned Kibling Solar New Materials (M) Sdn Bhd, is also building a solar panel manufacturing plant in the Kota Kinabalu Industrial Park is currently some 14 per cent completed and is expected to be done by the fourth quarter of next year.
Once completed, the company is expected to provide up to 2,100 job opportunities, 80 per cent of which are reserved for local workers in the silica sand mining plant in Kudat and its solar panel manufacturing plant in KKIP.
The project in Kudat had raised concerns among locals and environmentalists with the Malaysian chapter of the World Wildlife Fund warning that the silica sand mining would have a negative impact on surrounding communities.
This was because the processing site will produce fine silica dust particles known to be hazardous to the human body with long-term exposure.
The project came to light when residents from five villages in the area began to organise a protest, claiming that the long-term mining process would permanently impact the environment.
The five villages — Kampung Bangau, Andab Bangau, Andab Darat, Kimihang and Longgom Kecil around Bangau beach — have asked the government to intervene and issue a stop work order.
The villagers there rely on the fisheries industry as their main source of income, and small tourism operations that capitalise on the beach’s idyllic surroundings.
An online petition “Save Bangau Beach Kudat” has also been launched on change.org to collect signatures from the public. So far, over 8,324 people have signed the petition.