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Regulate Mining Practices to Ensure Sustainable Development

19 April, 2024, Kota Kinabalu: WWF-Malaysia urges the government to put in effective regulations and enforcement measures to regulate mining to ensure that its activities can be carried out responsibly without compromising the State’s biodiversity.

This is in line with the government’s intention to look into formulating responsible mining guidelines for the mining industry as iterated during WWF-Malaysia's 50th Anniversary celebration in 2022.

WWF-Malaysia cautions that the destructive effects of mining can derail the State Government’s commitment to the protection of biodiversity in Sabah.

“At best, considerations of the environment should be taken into account from the very beginning at the prospecting stages for mining. We can prioritise environmental safety by avoiding environmentally sensitive areas from the get-go,” said Dr. Robecca Jumin, Associate Director for WWF-Malaysia

Mining can have devastating impacts on the environment. Mining involves moving large amounts of soil and rocks. This inevitably destroys the land in the area and with it, the habitat of a variety of wildlife inhabiting the land. A study has shown that the coal mining expansion in East Kalimantan was the main factor driving mining-related deforestation in the country. Mining practices such as open pit mining and cyanide heap leaching destroy landscapes and create huge amounts of toxic waste. Waste from mining processes is more likely than not to seep into and pollute water resources.

Mining can also negatively impact the marine ecosystem. For example, silica mining is detrimental to coastal environments and can cause negative effects such as land deterioration or sinking of an island, loss of biodiversity, siltation, sedimentation and run-off to the sea. Mining activity can increase turbidity, which is harmful to organisms like corals and seagrasses that depend on sunlight.

“We need only to look at Mamut to see the kinds of environmental issues that mining can cause. Chief among those is the pollution of water – the rivers around Mamut became polluted and not fit for human consumption – eroding the health of the river ecosystem and affecting those who utilised it.

“This is especially crucial today as we are facing clean water shortage issues all over Sabah,” she said.

WWF-Malaysia also urges for the improvement of the Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) process with regards to transparency as a lack of transparency on the EIA, especially for projects with high environmental costs may lead to irreversible devastating impacts on Sabah’s biodiversity.

“The EIA is put in place to assess the significant effects that a project or development proposal may have on the environment. In order for this assessment to be truly effective, full transparency should be accorded to the EIA process in its entirety.

“A transparent EIA process will allow for all stakeholders, including the general public, to be well-informed of the EIA’s comprehensive assessments, to be included in the consideration of any comments made towards the process, as well as to be aware of the progression of EIAs, and if any adequate mitigation measures are applied based on proven data.

“Unfortunately, this transparency was somewhat lacking with regards to the mining project in Bukit Mantri and Bukit Tundong, Tawau,” she said.
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About WWF-Malaysia:

Established in 1972, WWF-Malaysia is part of WWF, the international conservation organisation. Working to sustain the natural world for the benefit of people and wildlife, WWF-Malaysia’s efforts to conserve nature focus on six major goals - forests, oceans, wildlife, food, climate and energy, as well as freshwater – and three key drivers of environmental problems – markets, finance and governance. Their mission is to stop the degradation of the earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature.

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