KOTA KINABALU: A Parti Warisan assemblyman raised a poser over the legality of the Tawau gold mining operations amid the state government’s stance that it is legal.
Merotai assemblyman Sarifuddin Hata (pic) claimed that he has proof in the form of a copy of a letter issued earlier this month from the Malaysian Mineral and Geoscience Department that mining was not allowed to continue at the Bukit Mantri location.
He therefore stressed it was considered illegal mining as the approval to mine gold had expired on Oct 31 this year and has not been renewed by the department.
He highlighted this in his additional question during the Chief Minister’s Department winding-up speech for the state Budget on Wednesday evening (Nov 29), which was delivered by Assistant Minister to the Chief Minister Datuk Abidin Madingkir who represented the Chief Minister.
Earlier, Abidin reiterated that the state government found the mining activities have fulfilled all the regulatory conditions.
Abidin stated that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report was met while the renewal of the Mining Operation Scheme Approval Letter (SKSPM) was still deliberated by the department.
“Therefore, once again the state government would like to verify that there is no order issued to stop the mining activities in line with Section 18(D) of the Mining Ordinance 1960,” he stated.
This caused Sarifuddin to read out the supposed letter where the department stated that they had not issued approval for operation at the said mining site at CL. 105651438 in Bukit Mantri until a proper application for SKSPM was forwarded, as the mining operator had also failed to include a copy of the EIA report.
“In terms of compliance, the mining company should not be operating without approval but it still does today, in fact, there are sales of gold conducted last week and I heard next week there will be another sale.
“However, the issue is the letter clearly stated no mining is allowed and to stop operations – and what is clear is approval for mining can only be issued by the department,” he reasoned.
To this Abidin replied, "I believe the power to stop (mining operations) falls under chief mining inspector under Section 18(D) of the Ordinance, and there is no directive to stop operations yet.”
Sarifuddin further elaborated that the letter also stated any purchase or sale of minerals from the mine could not be carried out without the Scheme Approval Letter. If such activity occurred, culprits were liable to be fined RM100,000 or five years’ jail.
State assembly speaker Datuk Seri Kadzim M. Yahya suggested that the Merotai assemblyman file a report with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) if he believed that it was an illegal activity, which Sarifuddin responded, “I wanted it to be answered at state assembly first. After hearing this and if it does not satisfy me, then I will consider going to MACC.”