Initiate independent probe on coal mine tragedy — See


See Chee How

KUCHING: Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem should immediately order an independent investigation into the Selantik coal mine disaster which had claimed the lives of four foreign workers and injured 30 others, of which 20 were said to be critical.

State PKR vice-chairman See Chee How, who made the call, said PKR had in fact urged the state government to look into the environmental and social impacts of the coal mine two years ago, after four coal miners from China lost their lives at the same coal mine but their call was ignored.

“With this second fatal blast and fire accident, there is no more excuse for the state government to allow resumption of the mining activity in the Selantik coal mine pending a full and thorough independent investigation and that all necessary health and safety standards are put in place to ensure that there will be no more recurrence of such accidents,” See, who is Batu Lintang assemblyman, told a press conference here yesterday.

See said the commercial and industrial benefits including entrepreneurial revenue and gains arising from the exploitation and mining of natural resources must always be balanced with environmental and social concerns including the health and safety of the workers, whether they are locals or foreigners.

“There is a three-fold significant increase in the production of coal from Sarawak, where 80 per cent of the coal deposits of Malaysia are located and production of more than 90 per cent.

“In 2007, 1.07 million metric tonnes were mined and produced. It rose to 2.95 metric tonnes in 2012. However, the royalty and rents received by the state government is minimal, in the region of RM22 million per year.”

Therefore, said See, the government should look into the state’s coal mining policies, particularly to safeguard the little coal resources and reserve left in the state, estimated at 1,724 million metric tonnes, of which only 16 per cent were measured, 20 per cent were indicated and two-thirds were only inferred.

In Indonesia, he pointed out, the total coal reserves were estimated at 28 billion metric tonnes, but the country had last year made an effort to cap production and renegotiate contracts with miners in order to preserve its reserves.

China, he said, had coal reserves of more than 150 billion metric tonnes, while India had coal reserves of more than 100 billion metric tonnes but these two countries were amongst the biggest importers of coal in the world.

“This is telling on the environment and social hazards of the coal mining industries and the indisputable values of coal in the future.”

See said the state needs to critically relook at the national Five-Fuel Policy on oil, gas, hydro power, coal and renewable energy.

“There is an obvious present risk that Sarawak is sacrificing its future to satisfy such national needs. The irreparable depletion of oil and gas and the losses and damages to land caused by such hydro power dams and coal mining are certainly detrimental to the state’s future.”

He, therefore, urged the state government to heed this unfortunate incident and immediately look into the coal mining industry particularly and the energy industry as a whole, adding that of utmost importance now is the health and safety of the mining industry.