Too costly to treat mining pool

KOTA KINABALU: A proposal to tap millions of litres of water from a disused mining pool at Mamut, near Mount Kinabalu, is not feasible.

Universiti Malaysia Sabah geologist Dr Felix Tongkul said the estimated 20.6 million litres of water at the disused copper mine open pit was acidic, and treating it for human consumption would be costly.

Although the water can be treated with limestone to neutralise the acidity, it will be too expensive to be practical, he told The Star.

He said the pH level of water in mining pits was about “3”, similar to some types of vinegar.

The pH is a scale showing the acidity or alkalinity of a liquid – “7” is neutral, the lower values are more acidic, and higher values more alkaline.

Felix said even if the acidity was neutralised, there would still be other minerals and heavy metals in the water.

Last week, Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan said authorities were looking at the possibility of treating water from the mining pit as one of the strategies to overcome water shortage in the area.

Pairin said the state Infrastructure Development ministry was looking at cloud seeding, which was expensive and unreliable, as well as desalination of plants.

Over the long term, he said the construction of a RM400mil dam would begin in Tawau district later this year.

In a related development, Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Maximus Ongkili said the El Nino phenomenon has affected the water supply in several districts in Sabah, including Tawau and Lahad Datu.

He said water supply was still sufficient for the northern district of Kudat and the sub district of Matunggong, thanks to the Milau dam.

Due to the prolonged dry spell, the water level in Milau dam, which has a capacity of 55mld (millions litres daily), has dropped by 25% but it was still enough for now, he said.

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