Sabah won’t allow coal mining at Maliau Basin, Shafie says

The Maliau Basin in Tongod, Sabah.

KOTA KINABALU: Chief Minister Shafie Apdal today assured that the state government will not approve any mining activities at Sabah’s coal-rich Maliau Basin.

Responding to a supplementary question by Joniston Bangkuai (PBS-Kiulu) at the state assembly sitting here today, Shafie said Sabah is not looking to coal as an alternative energy source.

“There is already a coal industry in Singapore, and how many plants are there in the peninsula?

“If we wanted coal as an alternative, we could import it from Kalimantan, which would be cheaper. But that’s not what we want to do,” he said.

The Senallang assemblyman added that the government has already planned measures to ensure a consistent supply of electricity.

Joniston had asked for assurance from the state government that no mining activity would be allowed at Maliau Basin, given its previous statement that mining could be considered there.

Shafie said he had discussed with Petronas the possibility of using gas, and that the state government is also looking at power generation from the Ulu Padas hydroelectric dam.

“Investors have complained about this – electricity is not enough, the cost is high but supply is inconsistent. Also (they complained that) water is not sufficient and road access is poor.”

He said Sarawak is able to produce electricity more cheaply thanks to the Bakun dam.

“So we will not approve coal mining – that is, under my leadership and that of the Warisan-led government,” the Semporna MP added.

He also said the government would review the 5% royalty from the single company allowed to mine for gold at Bukit Mantri in Sabah’s east coast Tawau district.

He said the company had so far produced more than 378kg of gold worth over RM65 million on the market. To date, though, it has only settled about RM1.3 million of the RM3.2 million royalty payment, he added.

“These are our resources from Sabah but only 5% is charged. For instance, in Kelantan, they are charging 10% royalty. Why didn’t the previous government consider this?

“We have the authority… as of now, we are demanding 20% oil royalty from Petronas but here we are, it is within our means, and yet we enforce 5%?

“That’s why we need to do a review but we know there is an agreement in place so I cannot say we will cancel the agreement,” Shafie said, adding however that Sabah must benefit from the operations.

He added that the government will only grant mining licences to state government-linked companies although they will be able to enter into joint ventures with private companies.