S’wak allows search for coal

  • Nation
  • Tuesday, 11 Aug 2015

KUCHING: The Sarawak government will allow coal prospecting over an area of about 40,000ha in Balingian, near Mukah, where two of the state’s largest coal power stations are located.

Currently, one plant has been in operation for five years while another, which is being built, is scheduled for completion in 2018.

The plants are designed to produce 600MW each.

Sarawak is the only state in Malaysia with coal.

Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem announced yesterday he had decided to approve a new general prospecting licence.

This is to meet the new Balingian plant’s 100 million tonne coal requirement over the next 30 years.

“Next week when I come back from KL and Brunei, I will sign the prospecting licence for coal in Balingian,” he told Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB) staff during the company’s Hari Raya open house.

Sarawak’s Second Resource Planning and Environment Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said the licence would be valid for two years, with an option for another two years should findings be positive.

“We have decided to give SEB the licence to facilitate its need for the supply of coal to the plants. There are three areas involved, covering 40,000ha.

“The reason the coal-fired plants are built there is because they are close to our coal reserves. This will save us costs in terms of transportation cost,” Tengah said.

Once reserves were confirmed, the next step would be for the state government to issue mining permits, he added.

SEB chief executive Datuk Torstein Dale Sjtveit said the company had set aside RM20mil to RM30mil for prospecting.

Planning began in 2012, and work is expected to start immediately.

“Our energy mix now is about 70%-75% hydro. By 2020, it will be about 60% hydro, 20% coal and 20% gas. We are also developing two new gas power plants, one in Miri and another in Bintulu,” Torstein said.

On a related matter, Adenan announced he would increase state funds for rural electrification and that he expected the Federal Government to chip in.

He said it was unacceptable for rural communities living near power plants and hydro dams to be without electricity.

“Yes, we have rural electrification schemes. But have the programmes done enough? No. I don’t think we have done enough,” he said.

“It’s going to be expensive but we must take care of the people.”

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