Friday 14 September 2012

Smelting plants ‘galore’ in Sarawak - Joseph Tawie

Chief Minister Taib Mahmud's Sarawak is set to host the most number of smelting plants in the country.

KUCHING: The state government under Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud is turning Sarawak into a ‘smelting pot’ with the influx of smelting plants like manganese and ferrosilicon, polycrystalline silicon, and manganese ferro alloy into Bintulu.

Sarawak DAP secretary Chong Chieng Jen claims that projects were “not beneficial” to the locals and in fact were detrimental to the people and environment.

“It will not benefit the common Sarawakians, such plants have devastating effects on the health of the people and on the environment.

“We have heard about Press Metal (in Mukah) causing strange illnesses to the people and the surrounding areas,” he said.

Chong who is the MP for Bandar Kuching and Kota Sentosa assemblyman was commenting on a statement made by Awang Tengah Ali Hassan, Minister of Industrial Development on foreign direct investments to Sarawak.

On Tuesday Awang Tengah said that Sarawak recorded in the first nine months of this year foreign investments totalling RM8.5 billion involving 38 projects.

He said that 21 of the projects managed to attract some RM6 billion in foreign direct investments (FDI), while the rest (17) involving RM33 million in capital investments had been approved by the Industrial Coordinating committee.

Awang Tengah said that based on ‘Malaysia Investment Performance 2011’ by the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA), Sarawak managed to attract the highest new capital investment in 2011 of RM8.17 billion, while Penang only managed RM4.48 billion and Selangor RM4.38 billion.

FDIs from smelting plants

Reacting to Awang Tengah’s statement, Chong said that the state minister was boasting that the state had the highest FDI for the year 2011.

“I just like to highlight one or two features of Sarawak FDI. Firstly, the FDI comes mainly from smelting industries such as the following:

“OM holdings & CMSB joint venture which is dealing with the setting up of manganese and ferrosilicon smelting plant with an investment of RM1.86 billion.

“Next is Tokuyama which is setting up a polycrystalline silicon smelting plant at a cost of RM3 billion.

“Asia Mineral is setting up a manganese ferro alloy smelting plant costing RM790 million.

“Another one is the Aluminium Corp of China JV with Gulf International Investment Group Holding Sdn Bhd called Smelter Asia to jointly develop a RM4.95 billion aluminium smelter plant with an annual capacity of 370,000 tonne in Samalaju,” he said.

He said the whole FDI that the Sarawak government was boasting about was building smelting plants which carry with it a very devastating impact on environment.

He said that the direct effect of this influx of smelting plants into the State was that the government was turning Sarawak into a ‘smelting pot’ with devastating effects on environment.

“The other impact is that we will sell cheap electricity to these industries in order to attract them to come to Sarawak, but at the end of the day the consumers will pay for it.

“Sarawakians will pay for this expensive electricity to finance cost-subsidy of cheap electricity to these industries, ” Chong said.

Economic boom temporary

He also said there were other points of concern such as the direct impact of these industries on the local economy and the ecology.

“These industries may provide an economic boom during the construction period, but such an industry will not have a direct impact to the state after the completion of the construction, because we are only exporting the products.

“It (export) boosts the (trade) figures, but it will not benefit the people directly,” he said.

“Thirdly, the industries will have the environmental impact on the state. My question is were there and environmental impact studies done before the approval of the industry?” he asked.

Chong said the it is unlikely that the more than RM8 billion FDI will benefit locals, citing the LNG 1,2,3, lants in Bintulu.

“I think there is nothing great to shout about the FDI. With all these industries, and at the end of the day, they do not really benefit the common Sarawakians.

“Take for example the LNG 1, 2 and 3 plants in Bintulu. During the construction of these plants, the people enjoyed the sudden economic boom, but when the construction was over, Bintulu is back to normal so much so that TV3 announcer said that Bintulu is a backward town.

“It is not economically developed,” Chong added.

Taib’s family to benefit most

However, the DAP leader was quick to say that the industries that would benefit would be Naim Holdings Bhd, Chahya Mata Bhd (CMS) and Bintulu Development Authority (BDA) which have formed a joint venture company to develop the proposed Samalaju new township.

The project which is estimated to cost RM1.5 billion has been alienated an area of 2,200 hectares where 5,000 residential houses, schools, clinics, commercial centres and recreational facilities will be built in Samalaju.

In the JV Company, Naim has about 60% while CMS and BDA hold 30% and 10% respectively.
Naim is owned by Hamed Sepawi, a cousin of the Chief Minister while CMS is owned by Taib’s family members.

“I think all the benefits will only go to these two companies, and they will not filter to the people,” he said, pointing out that the whole thing is good only for statistics.

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