KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is looking into the contentious claim that the gold mining operations in Tawau are illegal, says state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew.
She said that she directed the state's Environmental Protection Department (EPD) to brief her on the overall situation at the gold mining project in Bukit Mantri.
"We have to make sure the necessary approvals need to be placed before mining takes place," she told reporters after unveiling the December-Cover Sabah campaign 2023 here Friday (Dec 1).
She was commenting on claims by Merotai assemblyman Sarifuddin Hata that Malaysian Mineral and Geoscience Department (JMG) Sabah that mining was not allowed to continue at the Bukit Mantri location during the just concluded Sabah Assembly.
However, Assistant Minister to the Chief Minister Datuk Abidin Madingkir in response had said that as far as the state government was concerned there was no order issued to stop the mining activities in line with Section 18(D) of the Mining Ordinance 1960.
Abdin had told the assembly that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report had been met while the renewal of the Mining Operation Scheme Approval Letter (SKSPM) was still under JMG’s deliberation.
Liew said that the mining operations had met criteria previously but she needed to check if needed to get an update from the state EPD on Sarifuddin's claim that there was a letter issued by JMG informing that the mining operations were not allowed as of October this year.
"It seems that some are saying mining is allowed and some are saying it isn't. I will wait for the full briefing.
"EIA rules must be observed," she added.
On the renewal of the Sabah Tourism Board chairman position held by her assistant minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai whose term ended in mid-November, Liew said that the appointment was in the process but did not indicate if it was going to a new face.
Asked if she looking at renewal or placing a new face on the board, she replied; "It's a tricky question. Based on my records most of them (agencies under her ministry) terms end in November and December. There may be some movement, I will look into it.
"I also consult and discuss with the Chief Minister on such appointments," she added.