NGOs: Stop mining in Sabah

Unresolved legacy: A file picture of the pit left behind by the Mamut mining operation.

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah conservationists are strongly against extraction of natural resources in the state.

A group of 12 NGOs urged the state government to stay off mining as its past Mamut copper mining experience has left irreparable damage to the state’s biodiversity.

Mineral and Geoscience Depart­ment director general Effendi Abdullah Azizi should reconsider his suggestion for the state government to issue more mining licences to encourage extraction of natural resources in Sabah, said the group in a joint statement yesterday.

“It is ‘unwise’ for Sabah to move forward with the suggestion,” it said.

The group comprises Sabah Envi­ronmental Protection Associa­tion (SEPA), WWF Malaysia, Malay­sian Nature Society Sabah, PACOS Trust, Sabah Environmental Trust, Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA), Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Cen­tre, Borneo Futures, HUTAN, Danau Girang Field Centre, Forever Sabah and Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP).

The statement said that the Mamut copper mine on the foothills of Mount Kinabalu in Ranau was a “living testimony” of mining devastation on Sabah’s biodiversity and its people, especially residents living there.

“Severe rain led to mine waste contaminating the local communities,” it said, adding that 541ha of padi were also destroyed in 1977, while discharges have polluted several rivers, their fish stocks and Ranau’s water intake.

Although the Mamut mine was closed in 1999, the group claimed that Mamut copper mine remains a ticking time-bomb since the walls of the pit that currently holds 20.6 million cubic metres of water had been weakened by an earthquake in 2015.

It said some 600,000 tonnes of copper, 45 tonnes of gold and 294 tonnes of silver were extracted through mining activities.

The mining was carried out by a Japanese company in the 1970s but the company was later sold to a local company.

“Sabahans and our environment continue to pay the price.

“The cost to contain the problem was estimated at RM100mil in 2015 by geologist Prof Felix Tongkul,” the statement read.

“As of now, it remains unclear whether the government has the resources to rectify the problem and avoid similar risks in the future,” it said.

The group was also concerned about “hints” of possible coal mining in the Maliau Basin, Sabah’s untouched basin known as the Lost World globally.

The groups emphasised that the state’s coal is dirty fuel and was no longer a profitable venture.

“The state government is committed to nominating the Danum-Maliau-Imbak (DaMaI) Rainforest Complex as a World Heritage Site.

“This area is one of the richest and most important lowland rainforests in South-East Asia and a vital tourist attraction.

“Destroying it for profit will undo Sabah’s reputation as a world renowned ecotourism destination.

“This will affect the state’s ever-growing tourist economy,” it said, urging the state government to ban coal mining in Maliau.

It appealed for transparency and due diligence in any policy developments around mining.

“Only through engaging with the public can we find a truly sustainable development path for Sabah that will bring lasting benefits and quality of life to our families and state,” it said.

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