WWF-Malaysia urges Sabah to reconsider mining in Tun Mustapha Park

KOTA KINABALU, WWF-Malaysia is urging the Sabah state government to reconsider mining activities in Tun Mustapha Park (TMP), specifically on Balambangan Island in the park, off Kudat.

Its Conservation director Dr Henry Chan said in a statement today: “Balambangan Island is located within the biodiverse-rich TMP and any mining activity will have an adverse impact on the environment.

“As such, we urge the state government to take this into consideration and turn down the proposed mining project.

Chan said that during the recent State Legislative Assembly sitting, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal announced a proposed silica sand mining industry on the island.

He said studies on sand and silica mining from many parts of the world had shown negative impacts on coastal environments such as land deterioration or sinking of an island, loss of biodiversity, and sedimentation and runoff to the sea.

Mining activity can increase turbidity, which is harmful to organisms like corals and seagrasses that depend on sunlight.

When the negative factors lead to the destruction of coral reefs, the dive and tourism and fisheries industries would suffer, he explained.

Chan said based on a study published by SymbioSEAS and WWF Ocean with WWF-Malaysia early this year, it was projected that a huge percentage of coral reefs in TMP would experience annual severe bleaching in 15 years.

“Island silica mining must be urgently addressed as it can lower the resilience of coral reefs, which further diminishes the capacity to resist and/or recover from disturbance events and maintain the ecosystem function. This climate change impact is inevitable, he said.

He also noted that a 2011 Valuation Study of the then proposed Tun Mustapha Park by the Coral Triangle Initiative estimated that conservation and ecotourism expansion would bring in RM343 million, exceeding the extractive industries of limestone and silica sand mining at only RM100 million, in which sand mining stood at only RM8.6 million.

Chan said the economically-viable decision would be to invest in preservation and sustainable tourism.

Balambangan Island, though small, contains many scientific, aesthetic and cultural heritage values that must be protected from being indiscriminately exploited for short-term economic gains, he added.

Balambangan Island is approximately 21 km north of the Tip of Borneo in Kudat within TMP, one of the largest marine parks in Malaysia, with its coastal seas constituting part of TMP and marked as a Priority Conservation Area (PCA) under the Coral Triangle.

TMP is also home to the second largest concentration of coral reefs in Malaysia, which contributes more than 12 per cent of Sabah’s marine fisheries and aquaculture production with a value of RM184 million in 2017.

Source: BERNAMA (News Agency)