EIA requires buffer between silica sand mining project and Bangau beach, says Sabah minister

KOTA KINABALU: An initial Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for a silica sand mining project shows that it will not directly involve mining at the scenic beach area of Kampung Bangau in Sabah's northern Kudat district.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Jafry Ariffin said that based on the EIA submitted for the proposed project to the state Environmental Protection Department (EPD) on June 22, it provided for a sufficient buffer zone between the beach area and the project site.

"This is to ensure that the beach area is maintained for the use and activities of the local residents," he said when commenting about the project which has drawn protest and concerns among the villagers of Kampung Bangau.

He said the EPD had also outlined in detail all relevant mitigation measures in their letter of offer for the EIA approval to the project's proponents.

"The final approval of the EIA report will only be issued after the project proponent agrees to all the environmental conditions that have been stipulated.

"My ministry is concerned with the environmental issues raised by the residents including their concerns about the project's impact on Pantai Bangau.

"My ministry also emphasises that continuous engagement sessions with the local communities must be carried out to ensure that any concerns or views of the local communities are taken into consideration," he added.

Jafry also assured that he had requested that the EPD take into account environmental issues identified during the EIA assessment process following the application for approval.

He said the EIA report for the proposed project was discussed during the EIA Technical Committee Meeting with members from various technical agencies and relevant representatives of non-governmental organisations.

"Environmental issues that could occur as a result of the implementation of the project, as well as the proposed mitigation measures and monitoring programme, were deliberated during the meeting," he said.

The project had drawn concerns from five villages - namely Kampung Bangau, Andab Bangau, Andab Darat, Kimihang, and Longgom Kecil - whose residents said that the proposed project would be detrimental to the Pantai Bangau beach as well as the surrounding environment for the 1,000-over residents mainly comprising farmers and fishermen.

Mohd Mazza Azat, a member of the action committee formed by villagers to object to the initiative, was reported as saying that villagers depended on the beach and the sea for their main source of income.

He said the beach was also considered one of the tourist gems of Kudat, located some 130km from the Sabah capital, as it was considered a hidden treasure beach.

“Pantai Bangau is one of the longest and most beautiful beaches in Sabah,” he said when raising concerns over the silica mining project that includes constructing a solar panel manufacturing plant.

He also claimed the company or the authorities never asked the residents of the five villages, numbering over 1,000 people, for their views on the project or on how it would impact their lives.

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