Law has changed, quarry must follow new law, says Penang city council

A bird’s eye view of the quarry at Teluk Bahang, Penang. (MBPP pic)

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Island City Council (MBPP) today said a quarry owner here must follow new rules which came into effect this year.

The quarry is alleged to have cleared out an entire hill to mine for granite.

MBPP’s engineering department director Rajendran Anthony said the company was operating legally on first-grade land, which allows it to carry out activities without prior approval.

“Work involving quarries are subject to the National Land Code under the Land and Mines Office (PTG). Before the new quarry rules came into effect this year, all quarries required a licence or permit from the PTG.

“But, under the conditions of a first-grade land, a permit or licence is not necessary, as the express conditions (‘syarat-syarat nyata’) in the land title say so.”

The quarry in Teluk Bahang made headlines after the owner cleared a 12m-high hill, raising alarm over the effect on a nearby water dam.

First-grade land is unique to Penang and Melaka, where landowners have the right to use their land for any purpose compared with ordinary freehold land, recognised under the National Land Code (Penang and Malacca Titles) Act 1963.

Rajendran said under the new Penang Quarry Rules 2018, all quarry operators are required to submit earthwork plans to the local council for control purposes.

The quarry in question, which began operations in the 1960s, fell into disuse in 2002 . It started operating again this year but fell foul of the new quarry rules.

It did not submit any earthwork plans and hence was issued a stop-work order in February. An earlier stop-work order was issued in 2016 after the quarry was found to have gone beyond its borders.

“Mining work comes under the jurisdiction of the PTG and not the local authorities,” he told a press conference, adding that the council had sat down with the Minerals and Geoscience Department, police and PTG officials to decide on legal action against the quarry owner.

Meanwhile, state Local Government Committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said he would discuss with the state legal adviser and other department heads on how to improve punitive action against those who flout the law and even consider proposals to amend the law.

“If it involves federal laws, we will send our proposals to Putrajaya. As for state laws, we will expedite fixing guidelines related to earthworks.

“We will see if some laws need to be amended or better enforcement is needed. We need more deterrent sentences or else this kind of illicit activity will continue to haunt us,” he added.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia had described the incident as an act of wilful negligence by MBPP enforcement officers as the quarry operators had gone against stop-work orders and no immediate action was taken.