PAC recommends amending mineral act to enable enforcement actions against illegal mining

KUALA LUMPUR, July 11 (Bernama) — The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has recommended that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability (NRES) amend the Mineral Development Act 1994 (Act 525) to enable enforcement actions against illegal mining activities.

Its chairman Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin said the committee found Act 525 to be applicable only to legal mining activities, with any legal action against illegal mining falling under the jurisdiction of state governments.

She said the PAC, among others, suggested that the findings and detailed information on the pilot project for non-radioactive rare earth elements (NR-REE) mining in permanent forest reserve (HSK) areas be presented to the committee.

“The PAC concluded that the NR-REE reserves in Peninsular Malaysia amount to 16.2 million tonnes, valued at RM810 billion. However, NR-REE mining is not permitted within permanent forest reserves (HSK).

“Therefore, a pilot NR-REE mining project has been carried out outside the HSK area in Kenering, Perak. Consequently, guidelines for NR-REE mining activities outside HSK areas were distributed in December 2023,” she said in a statement today.

Mas Ermieyati emphasised that the ministry needs to engage with state governments to encourage the adoption of the amended National Forestry Act 2022 (A1667), which aims to address enforcement issues at the state level concerning landslides and forest encroachment.

She said Section 3A of the Act provides for state governments to grant written authority to any federal forestry officer to carry out enforcement, but many state governments have yet to adopt the Act.

The PAC also recommended that NRES continue to seek commitments from state and territory governments to reduce logging activities and focus on ecotourism and carbon trading initiatives to minimise negative impacts.

She said the committee suggested that the Forestry Department of Peninsular Malaysia, the Sabah Forestry Department, and the Forest Department Sarawak, along with state governments and agencies involved in forestry and land management, should be more proactive in implementing effective monitoring and enforcement activities, including the use of the latest technology.

“In addition, the Public Service Department and state governments need to conduct a staffing needs assessment to ensure adequate and skilled human resources for consistent and effective monitoring and enforcement activities,” she added.

Mas Ermieyati said the PAC also suggested that NRES ensure the Department of Environment promptly delegates the powers of the Environmental Quality Act 1974 (Act 127) to the Wildlife Department.

“This would enable the swift implementation of compliance and enforcement of the Wildlife Management Plan to address human-wildlife conflicts,” she said.