I have raised the problems of gold mining in Bukit Koman, Raub that has been the cause of pollution and threats of ill-health to the locals, with the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry during the Third Meeting of the Second Session sitting in the Dewan Rakyat. Deputy Minister Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Joseph Kurup had accepted my invitation to visit the site to understand the real situation and identify the problems faced by the local people.
An earlier visit was fixed at 10am on Jan 11, 2010. However, due to certain reasons, the Deputy Minister changed the date to Jan 12 last week. After receiving the official letter from his Ministry, I officially invited Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Ng Yen Yen who is the MP for Raub and who is aware of the problem to come with us in order to clear the doubts of the local people over the gold mining issue.
Raub Australia Gold Mining Sdn had utilised the Carbon In Leach (CIL) method to process gold in Feb 2009 without taking the locals’ health into consideration. In the CIL process, apart from `activated carbon’ an agent which is said to be safe, there are two types of agent that are hazardous - `sodium cyanide’ and hydrochloric acid’ which is toxic. Both agents were used without an explanation and announcement of its dangers to the public.
Seputeh MP, Sdr Teresa Kok Suh Sim and Kepong MP Sdr Tan Seng Giaw had posed questions on the dangerous method of CIL in the Dewan Rakyat sitting between June and November, 2007. The response from the MNRE was that `sodium cyanide’ would transform into a less toxic chemical when exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. This was stated without acknowledging the environmental threats resulting from the use & exposure of`sodium cyanide’. The water that is used to process gold is from an underground spring which goes through seven connected wells. This could lead to serious underground water contamination as a result of the operation. One of the wells is only a kilometre from the Raub Hospital. The Inter-State Raw Water Transfer project (between Pahang and Selangor) document states that the source of water is from Kelau Dam. This dam is less than 20km from the gold mining site. In the event a leakage of `sodium cyanide’ and `hydrochloric acid’ occurs underground, the toxics will seep into the water source and spread to Selangor and Kuala Lumpur. Imagine the catastrophe that will befall the lives of millions of people if we allow this mine to continue operating with the government looking out for short-term profits. What is the government’s stand in ensuring the safety of people in the long run?
Apart from that, `hydrocyanic acid’ (HCN), which tastes bitter, occurs when `sodium cyanide’ collides with steam. The colourless and odourless HCN is lethal to living things. Malaysia is a tropical country with a hot and humid climate throughout the year. If a `sodium cyanide’ leakage occurs, 2,000 lives in Bukit Koman and that of more than 40,000 residents in Raub will be affected. Till today, the government has not put into place any safety measure and fixed a monitoring device to ensure the safety of the locals. There was only one occasion when an air quality monitoring device was placed for eight days to demonstrate that the government is carrying out its duty.
The owner of Raub Australia Gold Mining is Dato’ Seri Andrew Kam Tai Yeow, son of the former MCA secretary general, Kam Woon Wah. The company’s annual audit report stated that the gold mine has been in operation for four years and profits are expected at RM100 million per annum. However, this crony company is not executing its corporate social responsibility in putting in place a stringent safety measure to curb the occurrence of a chemical leakage. When the mine shuts down one day, the toxic materials such as the tailings will remain in the mine. Plants and animals in the surroundings will die of poisoning. Is this crony company willing to sacrifice the lives of locals whose predecessors have lived here for more than 100 years just so they (the company) can pocket a quick profit?
The Bukit Koman Anti-Cyanide Committee has filed an application for judicial review in court to challenge the Preliminary Environmental Impact Assessment (PEIA). However, on June 1, 2009, High Court Judge Datuk Lau Bee Lan of the Appeals and Special Powers Division of the High Court dismissed the application on grounds that the PEIA report was gazetted in 1997 and therefore the period to appeal had expired. As a result, the case cannot be heard again. Recently, Datuk Lau Bee Lan in a High Court proceeding decided that the usage of the word `Allah’ is not unique to Muslims. The Home Ministry succeeded in getting a court order in three days to stay the court’s decision. This only shows that the federal government rather pay attention to the usage of the word `Allah’ than the lives of Malaysian people that are constantly threatened by harmful pollution. The lives of Bukit Koman residents in particular and the surrounding Raub dwellers in general are not significant anymore.
وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلاَئِكَةِ إِنِّي جَاعِلٌ فِي الأَرْضِ خَلِيفَةً قَالُواْ أَتَجْعَلُ فِيهَا مَن يُفْسِدُ فِيهَا وَيَسْفِكُ الدِّمَاء وَنَحْنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَ قَالَ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مَا لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ
ABDLH.YUSUF ALI: Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: “I will create a vicegerent on earth.” They said: “Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?- whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)?” He said: “I know what ye know not.”
MUHD M.W.PICKTHALL: And when thy Lord said unto the angels: Lo! I am about to place a viceroy in the earth, they said: Wilt thou place therein one who will do harm therein and will shed blood, while we, we hymn Thy praise and sanctify Thee? He said: Surely I know that which ye know not.
M.H.SHAKIR: And when your Lord said to the angels, I am going to place in the earth a khalif, they said: What! wilt Thou place in it such as shall make mischief in it and shed blood, and we celebrate Thy praise and extol Thy holiness? He said: Surely I know what you do not know. (2 Baqarah:30).
وَفِي الْأَرْضِ آيَاتٌ لِّلْمُوقِنِينَوَفِي أَنفُسِكُمْ أَفَلَا تُبْصِرُونَ
YUSUFALI: On the earth are signs for those of assured Faith,
PICKTHAL: And in the earth are portents for those whose faith is sure.
SHAKIR: And in the earth there are signs for those who are sure,
YUSUFALI: As also in your own selves: Will ye not then see?
PICKTHAL: And (also) in yourselves. Can ye then not see?
SHAKIR: And in your own souls (too); will you not then see? (51.Az-Zariyat: 20-21)
In the teachings of Islam, God blessed the earth for human beings and mandated them as caliphs to manage this planet in accordance with the law of Allah s.w.t. However, in reality the usage of toxics in the industry of gold mining in Bukit Koman shows that humans have ignored God’s message by destroying this holy earth. Are the government, people’s representatives and local leaders, as well as entrepreneurs still adhering to the electoral mandate and God’s message?
Finally, while appreciating the basic teachings of every religion, I urge the BN government to realise PM Dato’ Seri Mohd Najib’s concept, “1Malaysia, Rakyat Didahulukan, Pencapaian Diutamakan”. The local residents always welcome any response and compassionate solutions from the BN government.
Er Teck Hwa
MP for Bakri