Anura and Nazeri attended the session held at Kampong Kuala Nyalau community hall. Written here are best recollection of what transpired 19th February at the dialogue session with villagers.
The session was organised by Chemsains; there were four presentations altogether : one presentation by AML, followed by one of Bintulu Port Authority. Chemsains then followed with two presentations introducing the two proposed ventures.
The session wasn't a DEIA or EIA session as purported by the original invite faxed to MNS. We were expecting a full blown discussion over EIA done for the projects, however as we found outs it was only a presentation on the proposed plans by Asia Minerals Limited on Asia Minerals Limited Manganese Smelting and Bintulu Port Authority on Samalaju Port.
Both are embarking on EIA to be conducted by Chemsains to be commenced shortly after. Chemsains consultants involved in the project had already distributed some forms with questionaires as part of their Social EIA, this was done before our arrival.
The forms were to be collected before everybody leaves after lunch. The form distribution was organised by one of the ladies from the village through one of the consultants.
AML representated by (2 Japanese top executive, 1 Chinese top executive)
Bintulu Port Authority represented by Datuk Meor, originally from Perak "now stranded in Bintulu for the past 24 years", his own words.
Bintulu Residence Office represented by his deputy, someone hailing from Belaga area.
One representative from AZAM was present.
Villagers by Ketua Kampong from Kpg Kuala Nyalau, Kampong Nyalau Tengah, Kampong Nyalau Ulu and Tuai Rumah Panjang nearby.
We were reminded by the the Deputy Resident at the start of the session that this session was for the kampong folks.
Most of the elderly in the villages were present in the community hall : Tuai from the Iban Longhouse, Penghulu Saibi from Kuala Nyalau, Penghulu Sabtu from Nyalau Ulu, and Penghulu from Nyalau Tengah.
A few young people from all villages with only two actually taking the opportunity to speak: Ariffin from Kuala Nyalau and Suhaili from Nyalau Ulu.
There were at least 10 Chemsains consultants. There were also several officers we didn't recognise.
Flow: Linda from Chemsains was MC throughout the entire session. Penghulu Saibi said a few words : "Whatever is good for the kampong is good for me. I want yang terbaik for everybody". All the other Ketua Kampong echoed the same.
Datuk Meor gave a short opening speech and he went over the new Samalaju port in general. Mostly stressed on the the job opportunities for young people of the kampong ; return of Sarawakians to work in Samalaju. Mostly he reiterated opportunies to work at the port for those from all levels.
AML (Chinese top executive) presented gave a short opening speech : "the safe operation of AML, proven technology in India and China. Expertise from India and China for technical training. 400-500 job openings at all levels. Initially employing experts from India and China, later utilizing trained locals. Locally run manganese smelting operation is an aspiration of AML." Their operation is : a zero effluent operation, all water generated from process will be re-used for the cooling process.
No other water by products to be released into to the sea or river. Emissions will be following government prescribed standards (among them sulfur diokside).
Daniel of Chemsains presented AML and it's operations. Standard text-book items which I doubt any of the villagers undertsood. "All safe. No concerns. Effluents - Zero. Emmission - following government standards. AML Operations proven in India and China; Malaysia is the only other operation planned" He did not belabor the spec or technical aspects of the operations or potential negative impacts - which is understood since they are pitching a sale. He spent quite some time on "the good stuff" : opportunities for technical training, technology transfer, community engagements activities, CSR efforts (mostly in China).
No exact monetary value of intended investments in these non-core aspects were given.
Anthony of Chemsains presented Samalaju Port. There will be 6 phases in total, phase 1 and 2 from year 1-3; phase 3-6 if deemed necessary based on future growth requirements. He presented a completely new design of the port ie. instead of a wharf to sea, a dredged up port on the beach.
The port is to be located just north of Similajau NP. The Samalaju Port to be developed on the beach, with deepening and dredging activities, as well as construction of breakwater.
Shipping lane furrows 14m deep 3-5km to sea to be dug up and dredge up. The planned EIA will cover potential impacts the activities might have.
Q and A : At the start Residence's Office requested input from local people directly impacted by the project only.
Penghulu Saibi : Yang terbaik for the community. Education fund for kpg children Ariffin : Loss of fishing catch, job opportunity, training.
Suhaili : Infrastructure for the kampong ... roads, electricity, running water especially in view of 50 years independence. Jobs for all levels. Setting up of education funds.
Pa' Amit : Jobs for the older folks. To which Datuk Meor replied, "It will be limited. Opportunities for young folks however are boundless".
Suhaili : Enquired about potential contribution of Wang Ehsan for makan tahun. To which Datuk Meor replied, "BDA has many CSR activities involving large sums of money for many communities. No reason why some of that cannot be channelled to Kpg Kuala Nyalau."
Penghulu Kpg Tengah : Reiterated his desire for what's best for the kampong. There were no questions from anyone else. Datuk Meor : Job opportunities for all, the elder folks perhaps to reap benefits via their children. CSR activities from Samalaju Port for Nyalau folks.
The questions were standard questions from communities such as these ie. what they can potentially get instead of what they will definitely lose.
Session ended with lunch with the villagers.
We spoke to Anthony about why the change on port plans as opposed to originally proposed for Rio Tinto. Short answer : "Too expensive!"
Chemsains will conduct EIA on new plans as presented with mitigation measures, not sure whether this (mitigation measures, expensive) will go down well. We raised up destruction of beach area, disturbances over the 3 years contruction, potential permanent disturbance due to expected annual dredging that is required over the furrows for the shipping lanes to sea. Impact on turtles, water turbidity, as well as impact on corals and marine life nearby Sibuti Coral Reef NP. Hydrology study and current movements along the coast could increase frequency of dredging, prolong turbidity effects.
Biggest nearby river north of site is Sg Nyalau; biggest river south of site Sg Similajau. We also mentioned our Waterbirds Survey, MNS-Reefcheck Survey and Firefly Surveys in the Northern Region as potential baseline data.
Suhaili was prompted during a short exchange after the session to explore the setting up of Nyalau Education Trust with contributions from all industry players at the start of operation, immediately post EIA.
As it stands work has already started in the proposed area (land clearing started way back in 2009) where none of the EIAs have reached completion.
We left after lunch.
Senior management for AML, "We are top class producer of manganese in the region."
Senior management, this Japanese gentleman promised to teach local kids badminton and how to plant paddy for better yields.
Datuk Meor, "There will be plenty of opportunities for everyone at the new Port."
Deputy Resident from the Bintulu Resident's Office, "I know how you feel, I'm from Belaga, we didn't have roads and water either when I was growing up there. Look at Belaga now, with Bakun Dam and all that came with it, progress is knocking at our door. Progress has now arrived at Nyalau, open your arms and embrace progress."
Penghulu Saibi, "I only want what is best for the kampong and all anak buah of Nyalau."
Suhaili, "Will there be opportunities to create an education fund to cater for the coming generation of Nyalaus? With potential lost of traditional income from fishing, will there be opportunities given to the kampong people to help them jump onto the progress bandwagon? Funding for education and other skills enhancement opportunities."
A young Nyalau that will inherit the imminent change to the coastal landscape.
Boys listening to the presentations, recipients of all that progress has to offer.
Samalaju and the site of the new Samalaju Port to be developed by Bintulu Port Authority. The area has already been cleared, contructions in some parts have been ongoing since beginning of last year.
Samalaju on the plan, expected to accomodate jobs for 50,000 people.
The different planned phases of Samalaju Port. The design of the port differed significantly from the proposed plans originally put forward by Salco and Rio Tinto during their discussions for their aluminium smelting facilities at the same location.
The port at the beach and its breakwater.
The Samalaju Port. Groundwork has started and can be seen clearly from the air.
Words and images by Nazeri Abghani/Anura Dason