Report lodged over 'toxic pollution' from Tawau gold mine

KOTA KINABALU: A police report has been lodged over alleged toxic waste pollution at the controversial gold mine in Sabah’s east coast Tawau district.

Acting Tawau police chief Supt Champin Piuh confirmed that the report was lodged on Monday (March 4) morning by an employee of the company which owns the land at Bukit Mintri in Balung.

He said, however, a detailed probe by the Criminal Investigation Department found there was no criminal element involved.

“The matter would be referred to the Environment Department and the courts for (alleged) breach of a court order,” he said when contacted on Tuesday (March 5).

ALSO READ: ‘Tawau gold mining legal under Sabah law’

The complainant claimed that the company conducting gold mining activities on the land discarded untreated sodium cyanide from its factory at the site, which then reportedly overflowed to Sungai Mintri in a first-class forest reserve nearby.

The report also claimed the act by the company started sometime during the recent festive period.

The gold mining operations have courted controversy since last year, with Sabah PKR leader Sazalye Donol Abdullah urging the Prime Minister to intervene last month.

Sazalye said Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim should step in to resolve an apparent conflict over state and federal laws in the controversial gold mining operations.

ALSO READ: Investigate illegal gold mining operations in Tawau, assemblyman urges Mineral and Geoscience Dept

He said it was clear that the continuing gold mining operation was shrouded in legal issues as the state government appeared to have overridden federal authority in allowing it to proceed.

He said despite the federal Mineral and Geoscience Department issuing an order to cease operations through the Inspector of Mines in November, the state government gave the operator permission to continue under the Sabah Mining Ordinance 1960.

Assistant Minister to the Chief Minister Datuk Abdin Madingkir had said the mining operations were legal as the state ordinance allowed for Lands and Survey Department director Datuk Bernard Liew to also be the chief inspector of Mining.

In December, it was reported that area residents claimed they suffered from sickness and nausea after inhaling toxic waste from the mine.

ALSO READ: Anwar should step in to clear legal questions over Tawau gold mining, says PKR leader

State Health director Dr Asits Sanna said, however, that no private or government health facilities in Tawau had reported any cases of sodium cyanide poisoning from the mine at the time.

A follow-up probe by the Tawau Health Office found no truth to the poisoning claim, he said, adding that an inspection of the village and surroundings also did not find anyone exhibiting symptoms of poisoning.

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