Vale International, the proponents of the controversial iron ore hub in Perak are bent on convincing locals and the authorities that they are eco-friendly and committed to Malaysia.
KUALA LUMPUR: A new recreational park for residents, an ice factory in Pangkor for fishermen and constructing artificial reefs to generate new breeding grounds for fish– are just a few of the various corporate social responsibility(CSR) projects that Brazilian mining titan Vale International has committed itself to in Malaysia.
Vale is the company behind the controversial RM4.3 billion iron ore distribution hub currently being constructed in Teluk Rubiah, Manjung, Perak.
Vale Malaysia’s director Marcelo Figuiredo told reporters at a press briefing yesterday that the company is expecting to inject some RM10 million into its CSR this year.
Vale will be spending even more in subsequent years as part of its goal of being a long term “Malaysian company”, he said.
Among others, Figuiredo listed down other projects that Vale, after numerous consultations with local representatives and government, is proposing:
- Improving the equipments in Manjung Hospital
- Setting up a sports fishing programme for tourists
- Building a petrol station to support fishermen
- Sponsoring community messages such as anti-dengue campaigns
- Education scholarships for fishermen and locals
- Sports project: Helping to install lighting for a stadium
“Sustainability is not just about environmental health, but its about being a long term Malaysian company… and Vale has very strong health, safety and environmental measures.”
“Our CSR is geared towards sustainability. And one of our most important value at Vale is ‘life’. We think in the long term, how to make life better for the people and planet,” said Figuiredo.
Vale, he said, is also setting up an info kiosk at the gate of its facility to allow public to approach Vale directly to enquire or give feedback.
Other successful programmes Vale has conducted include job fairs, helping expose underprivileged children, fun runs and sponsored functions and assisting in a programme to improve and repair housing.
Explaining the reasons behind Vale’s social measures, Figuiredo said:“We’re trying to take part in the daily lives of the community.”
He said iron ore is part of everyone’s daily life and “can’t be bad for us”.
“We’re here to make it happen without damaging people or environment,” he said.
Local businesses benefiting
At the same time, Figuiredo said, local businesses are also reaping benefits from Vale’s presence in Malaysia.
“So far we’ve tendered out US$700 million (RM2. 202 billion) worth of contracts.
“64% of those are Malaysian companies, amounting to about US$480 million (RM 1.51 billion ),” he said.
For 2012, Vale is still in the process to tender out about US$400 million (RM1.258 billion) worth of projects, he said.
He said these projects include erection and civil works, dredging, providing of uniforms.
“We’re dying for more Malaysians to come on board! Most of them we’re calling [for tenders] are local companies.”
Figuiredo also said that with Vale’s presence in Teluk Rubiah, “big players” have also begun to put Malaysia on the map.
“The spin off process that can be generated is endless. The supply chain, the steel makers, in the downstream.
“Once we have a good environment for business, with raw material so close by, steel makers, vessel and structure builders and other heavy industries that uses iron would find very good reason to invest in Malaysia
‘Green belt’ buffer zones
On the plant itself, he said that the physical construction is now almost 20% complete.
Figuiredo said that Vale is committed to having a “green belt” as buffer zone and that would take up 50% (184 hectares) of the entire area.
“This is our commitment with the authorities and the people,” he said.
Vale will be using the balance 184 hectares for its industrial area (37%) and utility infrastructures (12%).
Figuiredo said that Vale has also taken up a self-monitoring processes for itself to check the plant’s effect on the environment.
“Every month we’re sending reports to the government. We have water quality, coral and environment monitors in more than 14 locations.
“We have a database to show the effects differences. This is a priority for us, to make sure the environment is well cared for”, he added.
Figuiredo also said Vale is proposing to build a bypass road so that traffic congestion can be avoided; and also a pedestrian crossing near a school.
‘We don’t want to engage in politics’
Asked about opposition towards the plant, especially protests and campaigns against it, Figuiredo said that from their communication with locals, the majority had been positive.
“We don’t want to engage in things that involves politics. What we can see from our observation is that we receive very good support from the locals, the majority of those are motivated to move forward with us,” he said.
Vale is the world’s largest iron ore mining and processing company. It has a locally registered company called Vale Malaysia Minerals Sdn Bhd (formerly Vale Malaysia Manufacturing Sdn Bhd), which started constructing the Teluk Rubiah plant last July.
The plant is expected to be operational by June 2014. It will process blended iron ore and pellets used in steel production for distribution to customers in Malaysia, Australia, China, Japan and other parts of the Asia-Pacific region.
The jetty would be the destination point for the massive Vale ships of 400,000-deadweight tonnes carrying iron ore from Brazil.
At the completion of Phase 1A, the Vale distribution centre will have a maximum throughput capacity of 60 million tonnes per year.
In interviews that FMT conducted last August, many local residents, mostly fishermen, expressed fears for their health and livelihood.
However, Vale has repeatedly assured its detractors that they are doing everything to ensure that there would be minimum environmental impact and maximum economic and social benefits.