KOTA KINABALU, Sept 21 — Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Jafry Ariffin today said that the initial Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for a controversial silica sand mining project in the northern district of Kudat will not involve mining at the stretch of its scenic beach.
He said that based on the EIA submitted for the proposed project to the state Environmental Protection Department (EPD), the mining will not be around the beach area of Kampung Bangau, which was among the main concerns of the villagers in the area.
“According to the report on June 22, it provides for a sufficient buffer zone between the beach area and the project site.
“This is to ensure that the beach area is maintained for the use and activities of the local residents,” he said when asked about the controversial project.
Jafry said that EPD had provided relevant mitigation measures in their letter of offer for the EIA approval to the project's proponents.
“The final approval of the EIA report will only be issued after the project proponent agrees to all the environmental conditions that have been stipulated,” said Jafry.
He said that his ministry had taken into consideration people’s views and concerns about the impact of the mining on the beach, which was their main livelihood.
“My ministry is committed to continuous engagement sessions with the local communities to ensure that any concerns or views of the local communities are taken into consideration,” he said
Jafry said the EIA report for the proposed project was discussed during the EIA Technical Committee Meeting with members from various technical agencies and relevant representatives of non-governmental organisations.
“Environmental issues that could occur as a result of the implementation of the project, as well as the proposed mitigation measures and monitoring programme, were deliberated during the meeting,” he said.
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 are Kampung Bangau, Andab Bangau, Andab Darat, Kimihang and Longgom Kecil around Bangau beach.
They had pleaded with the government to intervene and stop works by China-owned Kibling Solar New Materials (M) Sdn Bhd.
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, 8,285 signatures have been collected.
The proposed silica sand processing and solar panel manufacturing plant to be built in Sikuati, Kudat reportedly involves an investment of some RM2 billion and will create up to 2,000 job opportunities, 80 per cent of which are reserved for local workers.