KUCHING: Sarawak PKR today advised the people of Sarawak especially those living in Similajau near Bintulu not to be too happy with the decision of Rio Tinto to pull out of the agreement with CMS to build an aluminium smelting plant.
“We cautiously welcome the decision of Rio Tinto Alcan to pull out of the proposed RM7 billion aluminium smelting plant project in Similajau, Bintulu,” said PKR vice-chairman See Chee How when commenting on the decision of Rio Tinto and CMS to scrap the decision to build the smelter project.
“Losing the ‘anchor’ aluminium smelting plant project could be a blessing in disguise as it is opportune 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,” said See, who is the Batu Lintang Assemblyman.
“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.
“Further, we are sceptical 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-years tax exemption which is the very reasons these industries are setting up their smelting plants in Sarawak.
“Besides, Sarawak provides the cheap hydropower resources and that other countries are imposing stringent environmental protection and conservation measures on these industries,” he said.
Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, whose family owns the CMS, is not worried about the termination of the agreement between CMS and Rio Tinto as there are two other investors waiting on the list.
It is reliably learnt that Press Metal is one of them. After all it has already set up its first plant in Mukah and has been in operation since September 2009 producing some 300,000 metric tonnes of various aluminium products.
Press Metal is a Malaysian-based aluminium company with extensive global presence. From modest beginnings as private owned local aluminium Extrusion Company in 1986, Press Metal has come a long way to become a public listed global integrated aluminium player in the world today.
The existence of this plant in Mukah 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.
Fish, vegetables, fruit trees and the surrounding areas are also affected, claimed the villagers.
The villagers alleged that the source of their illness came from the nearby aluminium plant.