PKR: Press Metal Sarawak waiting for Taib’s nod

Taib Mahmud

Sarawak’s laxed environmental laws and policies are appealing to multinational conglomerates who are seeking to exploit its hydro-power resources, says PKR.


(FMT) - Chief Minister Taib Mahmud, whose family owns Cahya Mata Sarawak (CMS), is unperturbed by global mining giant Rio Tinto PLC’s RM7 billion ‘pullout’ because another investor, Press Metal Sarawak, is believed to be “ready and waiting” to start an aluminium smelter plant.

Press Metal, which has been operating in Mukah since September 2009, is already producing some 300,000 metric tonnes of various aluminium products.

It is apparently one of the two investors which Taib had alluded to in his response to Rio Tinto’s decision to scrap plans to invest RM7 billion in an aluminium smelting plant here.

Press Metal is a Malaysian-based aluminium company with extensive global presence.

The existence of the Mukah plant however only came to light last year after longhouse residents at Rumah Bansan, and five other longhouses in Mukah, claimed they have been suffering from a ‘mysterious’ illness causing their skins to be itchy, various skin diseases, headaches, coughing, breathing difficulties and other health problems.

The villagers claimed that fish, vegetables, fruit trees and the surrounding areas were also affected and blamed their difficulties to the nearby aluminium plant.

Said state PKR vice-chairman See Chee How, when commenting on Rio Tinto’s decision: “Losing the ‘anchor’ aluminium smelting plant project could be a blessing in disguise.

“It’s an opportunity for the Sarawak state government to review its decision and drop its plan to construct the 12 mammoth (hydro-electric) dams in Sarawak.

“However, we are aware that Press Metal Sarawak may step in to replace Rio Tinto Alcan.”

Laxed laws

See, who is the Batu Lintang assemblyman, Sarawak’s relaxed environmental protection legislatures and policies was appealing to multi-national conglomerates.

“Together with the other multi-national conglomerates which are interested to exploit our cheaper hydropower resources and our relaxed environmental protection legislatures and policies, Sarawak will be pervaded by the world most polluting industries in aluminium smelting, manganese smelting, ferro-alloy smelting and polycrystalline silicon plant

“Until today, Sarawakians are kept in the dark as to the environmental impact these industries will have on the state and the Similajau region in particular,” See said.

He also pointed out that it was unlikely that these industries will create job opportunites for locals.

“We are skeptical that these industries will create job opportunities for local Sarawakians as it is reliably learned that one of the manganese smelting companies had doubted the capability of locals to withstand the heat and it has already engaged an employment agency to recruit workers from India and China.

“In addition, these industries will not be generating revenues for the state as they are enjoying a 10-year tax exemption which is the very reasons these industries are setting up their smelting plants in Sarawak,” he said.