Silica mining project will ruin precious beach, Kudat villagers tell Sabah govt

The idyllic Pantai Bangau is a source of income for fishermen from the five villages.

KOTA KINABALU: Villagers in Sabah’s northern Kudat district want the state government to intervene over a silica sand mining and processing project at an idyllic beach near their villages.

Residents from the five villages – Kampung Bangau, Andab Bangau, Andab Darat, Kimihang and Longgom Kecil – are concerned that the project, run by China-owned Kibling Solar New Materials (M) Sdn Bhd, will be detrimental to Pantai Bangau and its surroundings.

Mohd Mazza Azat, a member of the action committee formed to object to the project, said the villagers depended on the beach and sea for their income as many of them were fishermen.

He said the area was also a valued tourist destination for Kudat, located some 130km from the capital of Kota Kinabalu, as it was considered a hidden beach.

ALSO READ: Sikuati to benefit from silica processing plant, says Sabah Deputy CM

“Pantai Bangau is one of the longest and most beautiful beaches in Sabah,” he told reporters at the site on Thursday (Aug 25), where a group of villagers gathered with placards to show their objections to the project.

"We are worried that the project (which includes constructing a solar panel manufacturing plant) will turn the crystal-clear seas murky, besides harming the flora and fauna.We learned that the project will run for 30 years. Imagine what will happen to this beautiful place if sand mining is carried out for that long?” he said.

Mazza pointed out that international beach runs would be organised, in collaboration with tourism authorities, at Pantai Bangau prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said the beach was not too far from the famous Simpang Mengayau, or Tip of Borneo.

Residents from five villages gathered at Pantai Bangau recently to voice their objection over the project.Residents from five villages gathered at Pantai Bangau recently to voice their objection over the project.

“If the project goes ahead, it is likely that such events will never be held again as we understand a jetty will be built, cutting off the beach route.

“It’s not that we are against development, but it should be the right kind of development.

“We feel the area would be better off being developed as a tourism hub to provide plenty of job and economic opportunities to the villagers,” he said.

According to Mazza, it was believed that the project owner has already started taking sand samples to appraise the silica content.

He also claimed that neither the company nor the authorities had asked the villagers, who number over 1,000, for their views on the project and the impact it would have on their lives.

“Although the company is operating on private property, the project can potentially affect the surrounding public area.

“We are also in the dark whether public access to the beach will be maintained or blocked off once the project gets off the ground,” Mazza said.

As such, he called on the Sabah government to listen to their concerns and come up with a solution.

On June 18, the action committee submitted a letter to the Chief Minister’s Department voicing objections to the project.

Mazza said the department took note of the letter and subsequently wrote to the state Industrial Development Ministry on June 23, asking it to take action.

An online petition “Save Bangau Beach Kudat” has also been launched on to collect signatures from the public. So far, over 6,800 people have signed the petition.

When contacted, Sabah Industrial Development Minister Datuk Dr Joachim Gunsalam briefly said his ministry will look into the matter.

The proposed silica sand processing and solar panel manufacturing plant to be built in Sikuati, Kudat involves investment of some RM2bil and will create up to 2,000 job opportunities, 80% of which are reserved for local workers.

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