Ex-CM warns against any plan to restart coal mining in Sabah

An aerial view of Sabah’s coal-rich Maliau Basin, which is now declared a heritage site. (Bernama pic)

KOTA KINABALU: A former Sabah chief minister has warned against any move to bring back coal as a source of energy in the state after previous efforts to stop its use.

Yong Teck Lee.

Yong Teck Lee, who also heads the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP), said recent news reports that the Sabah government was considering coal as an energy option were a cause for concern.

He said this was after a ferocious debate over a proposal for a coal-fired power plant in the state in 2009, which ended with Sabah cancelling the project despite pressure from the then federal government.

“In fact, current Sandakan MP Stephen Wong Tien Fatt was one of the activists at the forefront of the 2009 protests against the power plant proposal.

“The more viable, cheaper and cleaner option of using Sabah’s own natural gas for Sabah’s energy needs valiantly won the day,” Yong said here today.

Deputy Chief Minister Christina Liew recently said that Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad had raised the issue of coal mining during his recent visit to Sabah.

“However, it is still at the discussion stage,” she said. “Nothing has been implemented yet.”

Yong said coal mining in Sabah was an old issue which had already been put to rest.

“Back in the mid-1990s, including during my two-year term as chief minister (1996-1998), Sabah rejected any idea of coal mining at Maliau Basin which is known to have huge deposits of high quality coal.

“Opening up Maliau Basin for coal mining will devastate the world famous pristine region, also known as ‘The Lost World’,” he said.

He said if Sabah were to mine its coal, coal-fired power plants would be forced upon the state on the pretext that Sabah should use its own coal for power generation.

He said natural gas was a viable and better option.

“Sabah saw investments by Petronas and other oil and gas players, including the state government, to develop the state’s local oil and gas industry.

“It does not make sense that our natural gas is piped to the Petronas’ Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plant in Bintulu for export to foreign countries instead of being used in Sabah, including in the east coast, via the (now cancelled) Trans-Sabah Gas Pipeline (TSGP),” he said.