KOTA KINABALU, Sept 27 — The Sabah government has cancelled a gold prospecting licence at the foothills of Mount Kinabalu following environmental concerns from hundreds of villagers.
Assistant Minister to the Chief Minister Datuk Abidin Madingkir said that the state government has decided to cancel the licence for Sabah Mineral Management Sdn Bhd (SMM) to mine for gold in Bukit Tompong, Ranau after protests from the villagers.
“Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor decided that the prospecting licence should be withdrawn after I brought the matter to his attention.
“With this announcement, the doubts and fears of residents here these past months are over,” he told villagers at the Kampung Bongkud community hall as reported by a local newspaper.
The villagers of Bongkud and Namaus in the Ranau district some 100km from the state capital has been protesting for months over the gold prospecting license, fearing its environmental impact that will interfere with their livelihood if a mining operation was to begin.
With the help of local political party Parti Kerjasama Anak Negeri (Anak Negeri), they had urged the government to reject any application for a mineral prospecting license, saying that toxic chemicals such as mercury which was traditionally used to separate and collect gold nuggets will almost certainly pollute streams and rivers and other waterways.
SMM chief executive officer Jontih Enggihon who was also present at the gathering yesterday, acknowledged that the prospecting licence was revoked by the Chief Minister’s Office.
According to the State Mining Ordinance, the cancellation will be issued by the Land and Survey Department director and Enggihon said SMM unanimously agreed to no longer issue prospecting licences to areas where there are settlements.
“My team and I were instructed to identify other areas to be given to the mining company concerned. We are yet to identify which areas will be given to this company, but it is safe to say that it will not be in Ranau,” he said.
He also acknowledged that it was natural for the people to protest the prospect of mining because they want to protect their environment from being polluted.
He said Sabah is the richest state in terms of minerals and it is foreseeable that several mines would be opened for the benefit of the state as well as for the people, in terms of employment opportunities.
One of the villagers at the event, Sainin @ Onit Bin Hamid told reporters that many of them had spent the last few months worrying over their livelihood should the mining be allowed.
There have been previous incidences of potential mining in the same area.
The Mamut Copper Mine and an Australian company had attempted to prospect for gold at Kampung Bongkud in the 1990s but were rejected by the then state government following a strong opposition by villagers.