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Proposed Gua Musang mining project threatens home of 105 protected animals

Proposed Gua Musang mining project threatens home of 105 protected animals
Proposed Gua Musang mining project threatens home of 105 protected animals

A proposed mining project in Gua Musang, Kelantan poses a threat to the habitat of 105 totally protected and protected animal species, including endangered tapirs and Asian elephants.

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the project situated near Sungai Lebir also raised concerns about possible water pollution and its impact on the local community.

The project to mine manganese is being headed by Nadi KW Sdn Bhd, the mining arm of NadiCorp Holdings Bhd.

In 2019, the company was granted a five-year mining lease, effective until March 2023.

Environmental group Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) raised concerns about the project in a statement yesterday.

Public feedback for the project will close next Tuesday (June 15).

According to the EIA report, the project will span 202.37 hectares, about the size of 246 football fields.

However, the EIA noted that 117.32ha of the land has already been cleared for a processing area, stockyards, offices and internal haul roads, among others. It said Nadi KW had engaged in land clearing from June to August 2019.

SAM claimed the land clearing is a violation of Section 34(A)(6) of the Environment Quality Act, which states that no prescribed activities should be carried out without approval from the Department of Environment (DOE).

The EIA states that the potential impact of land clearing for the project was a loss of habitat for animals, and an "irreversible impact" on slow-moving ground mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

"In fact, there are no absolute mitigation measures which can eliminate this eventuality for the local wildlife," the report states.

It also said there were concerns about poaching and illegal bird trapping.

There was also the risk that animals chased away could intrude on orchards in nearby settlements, thereby increasing the possibility of human-wildlife conflict. SAM expressed similar concerns.

According to the EIA, the site is currently home to tapirs and Asian elephants, which are considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and totally protected by the government.

It is also home to oriental small-clawed otters, clouded leopards, Malayan sun bears, and pig-tailed macaques - which are totally protected species - and which the IUCN has classified as vulnerable.

The biggest group of wildlife affected will be birds, of which there are 97 species in the area - including the nearly threatened great argus, rhinoceros hornbill, brown fulvetta and lesser green leafbird.

The EIA did make recommendations to mitigate harm to wildlife.

This includes having a wildlife management plan and monitoring team under the supervision of the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan).

It also suggested that workers at the mining site be educated about the importance of wildlife conservation and the legal consequences of poaching.

There is also a proposal to set up fencing to prevent access to wildlife areas.

Meanwhile, SAM claimed that the water modelling results in the EIA indicated serious concerns about water pollution, even with mitigation efforts such as riparian barriers in place.

"Many parameters, especially the heavy metals, will exceed the baseline levels and be classified as Class V, the most polluted level when the mining operation begins.

"This is a serious concern especially when the Lebir Water Treatment Plant is located just 1km away downstream from the project site.

"Further, the recent case of flooding at the downstream area of Sungai Kelantan raises a further concern on the water pollution issue," SAM president Meenakshi Raman said in the statement yesterday.

In light of the negative impacts, SAM urged the Department of Environment to reject the EIA report.

The NGO also called for authorities to direct the project company to rehabilitate the area that has already been cleared.

"The Kelantan state government should take note of the ongoing environmental and social issues brought about by open cast mining projects around the world and from previous local experiences," SAM added.

Malaysiakini has reached out to NadiCorp for comment.