KUALA LUMPUR: Deputy Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Tengku Zulpuri Shah Raja Puji today said it was impossible for the Kelantan government to be unaware of an iron ore mining area near the Orang Asli settlement of the Batek tribe in Kuala Koh, Gua Musang.
He also described the statement of Deputy Menteri Besar Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah denying the existence of the mining area as absurd, saying checks by the ministry had found that the miner obtained the licence to run the operation until 2023.
“Before any mining company is allowed to operate, they are required to obtain a mining licence from the state government and an operating licence from the federal government. Otherwise, they will be categorised as illegal miners.
“Upon checks, we found that the mining company obtained the mining licence until 2023… but the operating licence issued by the federal government was terminated in 2017 as the company failed to comply with the environmental impact assessment report.
“So the statement (that there is no such mining area) is utterly absurd because I personally went to the area and saw that the mining machines and equipment are still there,” he told Bernama when contacted here today.
Amar was previously reported as saying that there was no record of legal mining activity in the area, and that the matter was verified by the state Department of Environment.
The deputy menteri besar was also quoted as saying that the allegation that the Orang Asli of the Batek tribe were infected with pneumonia because their water source was polluted by the mining operation was not true as pneumonia is spread from person to person through airborne droplets.
The Kelantan Fire and Rescue Department also verified that checks by its hazardous materials team yesterday found that several areas in Kuala Koh were free from pollution or radioactive contaminants.
The checks were carried out at a few water sources including former mining sites, water catchment areas, rivers and Aring 10, using special equipment to detect harmful chemicals.