KOTA KINABALU: The silica sand mining project in Pulau Balambangan, Kudat, will have minimal impact on the environment, the state government assured on Tuesday (Nov 19).
Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal said the project has the potential to become a new source of state revenue, as Sabah reduces its income dependency from the oil and gas and tourism sectors.
“This is an island quite isolated with not many settlers or visitors.
“If there is any kind of sand extraction coming from that area, it will not affect the environment nearby.
“This is one sector of revenue we cannot forgo. There are other materials like coal, which is near and is within reach less than 3 hours in Maliau Basin, but we do not want to extract that.
“But we know the silica sand mining is not going to have serious impact in terms of pollution. After looking into it thoroughly, I have never seen that any kind of operations done in this particular similar field, will have negative impact to the environment, ” he told reporters.
Shafie said this after witnessing the shareholders' agreement signing between Yayasan Sabah subsidiary, YSG Silica Sdn Bhd and Sarawak-based KTS group subsidiary, Aura Avenue Sdn Bhd for the Balambangan Island silica sand joint project on Tuesday (Nov 19).
He said this when asked about concerns raised by environmentalists like WWF-Malaysia on the silica project at the island, where Balambangan coastal seas constitutes part of the Tun Mustapha marine park.
WWF-Malaysia conservation director Dr Henry Chan in urging the government to not continue the project, previously said human stressors like island silica mining must be addressed as it can lower the resilience of coral reefs.
Meanwhile, the signing was done by Yayasan Sabah director Datuk Jamalul Kiram Mohd Zakaria on behalf of YSG Silica and KTS group managing director Datuk Henry Lau representing the subsidiary Aura Avenue.
Shafie said partnering with Aura Avenue was the right choice as the company has vast experience in this field.
“The state government via Yayasan Sabah, which provides the material (silica), find it is important for us to engage Malaysian companies especially from our neighbouring state, to assist us in their expertise.
“I believe there is more potential not just in producing silica in the long run, but as well as downstream like glass making industry. We want it to be a win-win situation on both sides, ” he added.
Asked on the project status, Shafie said it has already started on the ground and KTS is expected to bring in their machinery over or buy the equipment from here, whichever is more cost-beneficial.
Earlier, Shafie received a courtesy call from Czech Republic Environment Minister Richard Brabec, who was leading the delegation from his country, where they discussed possible areas of collaboration.
Shafie said Sabah could learn from Czech Republic’s experience in solar and hydro energy, as the republic was more advanced in these sectors, among others.