Mining projects involving Pahang’s reserve forest areas approved – Assemblyman

CAMERON HIGHLANDS, Aug 25 – Although Pahang Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail repeatedly claimed that the state government has not issued any mining leases to give the green light to lanthanide mining in Jelai, some official documents have surfaced showing that the state government has already approved the mining applications of three mining companies, says Assemblyman for Tanah Rata (Cameron Highlands, Pahang), Chiong Yoke Kong.

In a statement today, he said the Pahang state government should stop arguing on semantics to mislead the public on what is really going on.

He said only some technical issues were still pending, such as degazetting the forest reserve before mining leases and permits are officially issued. 

“Based on the official documents, i.e., letters issued by the State Land and Mines Office (PTG) of Pahang dated August 9, 2019 d October 17, 2019, the mining applications of three companies, namely Aras Kuasa Sdn.Bhd., Dataran Galian Sdn. Bhd., and One World Mining Sdn. Bhd., have been approved,” he said.

In addition, he said Pahang PTG issued an official letter dated November 30, 2020, stating that the mining projects have been approved by the authorities. Nevertheless, forest reserves have to be degazetted and replaced with any land of the same size before mining licenses can be issued for mining activities.

“The truth is that the state government has approved mining proposals in Jelai. As such, it should not play a game of semantics by claiming that it has not approved mining activities merely because mining licenses and permits have not been officially issued. Making such an irresponsible remark amounts to misleading the public.”

If the Pahang state government is sincere in protecting the Jelai Forest Reserve and its ecosystem, it should publicly announce that the lanthanide mining projects are officially cancelled. However, as the state government keeps arguing semantics instead, it appears to be trying to buy time for the mining companies to obtain their mining licenses, he said.

If the mining projects are successfully carried out, the ecology of the two Orang Asli villages near the area, namely Kampung Jintir and Pos Lanai, will be destroyed. Furthermore, the projects will also lead to pollution in Sungai Telum and Sungai Pahang, thus further endangering the health of the villagers. 

In the past two years, the state government has launched large-scale enforcement operations against vegetable farms along Sungai Ichat and Sungai Bertam in Cameron Highlands, on the grounds that rivers were polluted. Why would the state government, on the one hand, mercilessly evict farmers who had cultivated their lands for over 30 years, but on the other hand allow companies to carry out lanthanide mining? 

Furthermore, the environmental pollution caused by mining activities is ten times or even a hundred times more devastating than agricultural activities, Chiong said.