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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Planned Tasik Chini forest reserve revised to exclude mining site


A royalty-linked mining site that was initially supposed to be part of the planned Tasik Chini forest reserve has been removed from the earmarked area.

Malaysiakini learnt that the 40.51-hectare mining site, around the size of 60 Olympic football fields and located 3km away from Tasik Chini, was excluded by means of a state government gazette.

Pahang Survey and Mapping Department (Jupem), when contacted, confirmed that the mining site at Lot 87978 in Mukim Penyor was initially supposed to be part of the planned forest reserve but was removed.

"Regarding Lot 89798, it was initially part of the (area to be gazetted as) Tasik Chini Forest Reserve. However, the location had since been excluded through a government gazette.

"In the latest gazette plan, this land plot is situated outside the Tasik Chini Forest Reserve," the department's director, Zoher Nomanbhoy, told Malaysiakini.

The surveyor was responding to Malaysiakini's request for information on the ongoing process to gazette Tasik Chini as a forest reserve. This includes whether Lot 87978 is supposed to be within the perimeter.

The request was made after the mining operator that was hired to carry out the project maintained that their site was not part of the forest reserve.

"Our mining area is not located within the protected area of Tasik Chini. And thus, the forest reserve gazette does not have any impact on our company," Golden Prosperous Resources Sdn Bhd said in a statement to Malaysiakini.

It also expressed hope to be allowed to proceed with the planned mining activity.

Plans to gazette the Tasik Chini area as a forest reserve had been announced in 2019 but this has yet to materialise due to the ongoing mining activities.

Malaysiakini had highlighted the planned manganese mining operation at Lot 89798 on June 3 following an environmental impact assessment (EIA) process.

Tasik Chini manganese mining site.

Subsequently, Pahang regent Tengku Hassanal Ibrahim Alam Shah visited the Tasik Chini area and asked for all mining activities there to stop.

He also called for the initially planned area of 4,600ha to be gazetted as a forest reserve to be expanded to between 6,000ha and 7,000ha.

It is still not clear if the mining site will now be included in the planned forest reserve area under the proposed expansion.

Proposed forest reserve to expand

At present, Jupem said it was unable to provide a map of the proposed forest reserve area until after it is officially gazetted.

"After the gazette is done, the plan can be acquired from the Pahang Jupem counter in Kuantan," Zoher said.

The manganese mining site, which began the EIA process earlier this year, was approved by the Pahang government despite the state's public messages about rehabilitating the country's second-largest freshwater lake.

The EIA document published by the Department of Environment in April showed that the state government had given an exemption for mining activity at Lot 87978, despite its status as 'Environmentally Sensitive Area Level 2'.

Under this category, the area can be developed with certain conditions but mining activities are not allowed.

The EIA said the Pahang government "superseded the Rancangan Khas Tasik Chini and approved the project site for mining activities".

Tasik Chini is a rich bio-diversified lush tropical wilderness, home to hundreds of species of flora, non-aquatic lives and freshwater fish.

Timber logging that has caused the pollution of Sungai Pahang, Tasik Chini and Tasik Mentiga.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) in 2009 declared the area as one of its biosphere reserves.

The Pahang government had announced a moratorium on new mining licences in 2019 but the operator said its licence was granted prior to that and mining operations were delayed due to changing requirements.

The mining concession at Lot 87978 is owned by the royalty-linked Hanishah Ventures Sdn Bhd, which appointed Golden Prosperous Resources as the operator.

Hanishah Ventures is co-owned by Raja Shah Zurin Raja Aman Shah and Tengku Hanizar Tengku Muhammad.

Raja Shah Zurin is an actor and cousin of Kelantan ruler Sultan Muhammad V, while Tengku Hanizar is the aunt of Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, who is also the Pahang ruler.

The EIA document listed Tengku Nong Fatimah Sultan Ahmad Shah, who is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong's sister, as the contact person.

A similar modus operandi was also used by individuals connected to the Pahang royalty for proposed mining sites in other areas of the state, including the Som Forest Reserve which was partially degazetted.

The de-gazettement reflected concerns that forest reserves did not guarantee the protection of the flora and fauna as the state government can easily revoke the status. - Mkini

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