SAVE Rivers

SAVE Rivers

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Bantahan Terhadap Projek Pembinaan Empangan Hidro-elektrik Baram

After Rio Tinto Debacle: Sarawak Chief Minister accused of greed, economic incompetence

(KUCHING, MALAYSIA). Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud is facing massive criticism after Rio Tinto Alcan’s decision to scrap its planned US$2 billion investment in an aluminium smelter in the East Malaysian state in Borneo. While environmental campaigners hailed the decision by the Australian mining giant as a breakthrough in their attempts to halt twelve planned hydro-dams in Sarawak, they also accused the long-term governor of the state, Taib Mahmud ("Taib"), of being greedy, highly corrupt and economically incompetent.

"With its rich biodiversity and its wealth in natural resources, Sarawak could have become a model state for sustainable development. Instead , Taib has turned Sarawak into a private gold mine for his voracious clan.", a spokesperson for the Swiss Bruno Manser Fund said. Research by the Bruno Manser Fund has shown that the Taib family have acquired stakes in over 400 companies, worth billions of US dollars, in 25 countries and offshore finance centers.

"Taib cannot create value. He can only exploit others by grabbing their land, stealing their resources and destroying their livelihood", the Bruno Manser Fund wrote in a statement. "This is a vampire economy that benefits a handful of people connected to the ruling family while the great majority have to pay the price. This man has to be stopped because he is about to ruin Sarawak’s economy for good." It is particularly feared that the Taib government’s economically unsustainable dam constructions will endebt the East Malaysian state for decades.

On Wednesday, Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud tried to downplay Rio Tinto’s decision to shelve its Sarawak smelter plans. He said Rio Tinto’s decision would not affect the state government’s plans to go ahead with SCORE, a govrnment scheme promoting the construction of twelve new dams by 2020. Rio Tinto Alcan confirmed to BMF that, after five years of negiotiations with the Taib government, "it is no longer pursuing plans to develop a world class aluminium smelter in Sarawak, Malaysia" because "agreement on a long term competitive power supply contract could not be reached."

- Ends –

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Backing Out Of Bakun – Rio Tinto Pulls Out!

Posted Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

This post is also available in: Malay

Only two out of the eight turbines are working, there is no use for the electricity - and yet Taib and Hydro Tasmania are working flat out to build a string more of these destructive dams across all the rivers of Sarawak

The question marks over Taib’s pet mega-project, the billion dollar Bakun Dam, have just multiplied into a full-blown crisis for the so-called ‘CEO of Sarawak’.

The global mining company, Rio Tinto Alcan, has just announced that it is pulling out of the much-touted aluminium smelter venture, SALCO.

This was the flagship project, that was supposed to form the backbone of Taib’s plans to employ the huge surge of hydro-electricity from this enormous structure.

And it leaves the whole fantasy of the Chief Minister’s SCORE (Sarawak Corridor of Energy) concept and his plans to build yet 12 more huge dams hanging in tatters.

Bakun is fast turning into the monstrous white elephant that many had long feared it would.

So much suffering for no use

Floating homes - the Ukip people have returned to their flooded homelands rather than suffer displacement in refugee settlements

Over past weeks and months Sarawak Report has detailed some of the suffering and harm caused by the dam to ordinary people of Sarawak and Malaysia.

Quite apart from the environmental devastation caused by the logging and flooding of a pristine jungle area the size of Singapore and the disruption to the life of Sarawak’s greatest river, the project has brought nothing but misery to the local people.

Ten thousand were forced from their homes, in return for promises of compensation and jobs, which turned into dust once the land had been cleared.

Life is so bleak in the re-settlement zones that many of the native people have chosen to return to their old lands, clinging to the banks of the rising dam waters in their now floating homes.

While people suffered, local MP Billy Abit Joo profited !

And as we have exposed, many of the jobs and contracts presented as opportunities for local communities, were in fact corruptly taken over by hangers on and BN political cronies of the area, like the Federal MP Billy Abit Joo, who has became the main shareholder and beneficiary of the so-called ‘people’s cooperative’ Wargana Consortium.

Sarawak Report and other NGOs have been vigorously drawing attention to these outrages and such information will not have gone un-noticed by a company such as Rio Tinto Alcan, which is sensitive to the views of its western shareholders when it comes to human rights and environmental issues.

Why did Rio Tinto Alcan really pull out of SALCO?

The reason given for Rio Tinto Alcan’s decision to pull out of the planned US$2billion smelter was politely described as a failure to come to an agreement over the price of the electricity being offered from the Bakun Dam.

This is probably indeed a large part of the reason.  The conglomerate was tempted to pull out of its existing operations such as Canada, the UK and Australia as long as it could be guaranteed dirt cheap electricity.  However, what benefit was that to the people of Sarawak?

Key players in the SALCO project were Taib, Robert Geneid and CMS's Richard Curtis

The point of the dam was to make money!

In fact there is an urgent need to make money from Bakun, in order to somehow pay back the billions that have been siphoned out of the Employees Provident Fund and other Malaysian government pension schemes to build it.

If Bakun cannot get a decent price for its electricity, then those pensioners will lose out.

With the prospects looking grimmer by the day the ‘CEO of Sarawak’ and his BN buddies in the Federal Government are surely at last beginning to realise why no private investors were prepared to touch the project!

Failure! - Key players like CMS's Richard Curtis had put their hopes on winning this key project that would have poured money into Taib's family company!

So, maybe Rio Tinto Alcan’s demands for virtually free electricitywere too much even for Taib and his desperate team lead by brother-in-law, Robert Geneid, and CMS CEO, Richard Curtis, who had invested all their hopes in winning this bid?


We exposed how Australian Commissioner Miles Kupa had worked tirelessly to promote the Rio Tinto bid, despite its corrupt nature and the fact that it would undermine jobs in his own country! Did he think twice?

But, we suspect there was an even more compelling reason for Rio Tinto Alcan to come to the swift conclusion that they shouldn’t be touching Sarawak and its dodgy Chief Minister and his clique of BN cronies and family hangers-on with a barge pole.

That reason was the over-whelming stench of corruption that no amount of sweet talk and cover-up could conceal!

Sarawak Report comprehensively exposed the full scandal behind Taib’s plans to personally make billions out of the SALCO venture just last month.

Australian High Commissioner, Miles Kupa, may have been dragged in to support the bid and Rio Tinto Alcan executives may have flown into Kuching just a fortnight earlier to continue negotiations. However, once the cat was out of the bag that Sarawak’s own Chief Minister was standing to make hundreds of millions, if not billions, out of the carefully crafted deal, how could such supposedly respectable entities continue to be involved?

What use now for all Bakun's electricity? Maybe free electricity for the people of Sarawak!?

Sarawak Report received no response or comment from Rio Tinto Alcan or the Australian High Commissioner from its exposes into their involvement in the corrupted SALCO project, but sometimes actions speak louder than words.

This was not a project that RTA were going to find easy to explain to their shareholders.

Questions still remain about how it was that RTA were still actively negotiating on this clearly corrupted project as late as January this year?

This was long, long after company executives had realised that this was not a joint venture with the State of Sarawak, but with the family firm of the Chief Minister of Sarawak CMS!

More dams!

Sarawak's shame - refugees of Bakun. Taib might not care, but could Rio Tinto Alcan put up with this stain on their image as they profited from the dam?

And yet Taib Mahmud and his BN cronies are still forging ahead with all their plans to build a whole new swathe of dams once they have got the next election out of the way!

Another half million people flooded from their lands (once the wood has been conveniently extracted and the profits divided amongst them).  Why, when there is no use for the electricity?  Why, when neither the Bakun Dam nor even the far older Batang Ai dam are turning even half their turbines most of the time?

The reason is of course, as always, the prospect of profit for Taib Mahmud, who plans to borrow billions for these projects and for SCORE.  Billions of dollars that can be poured into his companies as he gets them involved in all the contracts for building the dams and involving foreign companies in cheap electricity projects (like the doomed SALCO venture).

It is the people of Sarawak who will have to find the money to pay all this borrowing back and they are unlikely to have any profit from these useless dams to help them.

So much for BN’s CEO of Sarawak!

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Rio Tinto, Cahya Mata scrap US$2b smelter project in Malaysia

March 28, 2012
Malaysian Insider

Rio Tinto, the world’s third largest miner, and Cahya Mata Sarawak have scrapped plans for a US$2 billion (RM6.1 billion) aluminium smelter project in Sarawak as power supply terms could not be finalised, CMS said in today.

Cahya Mata, a financial and construction conglomerate based in Sarawak, said both companies had worked to set up an aluminium smelter for years but could not agree on the commercial power supply terms with Sarawak Energy Berhad. CMS is owned by the family of long-serving chief minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud.

“As a result, Rio Tinto Aluminium (Malaysia) and Cahya Mata have agreed that they would cease to pursue plans to jointly develop an aluminium smelter at Samalaju in Sarawak but remain open to other future possible collaborations,” Cahya Mata Group Managing Director Richard Curtis said in a statement.

The aluminium smelter was supposed to have an annual capacity of 1.5 million tonnes to meet surging demand from China and other developing economies.

But the project, which was first announced in 2007, had not gone beyond the planning stage due to delays in constructing Bakun dam — one of the world’s largest hydroelectric dams — that would provide cheap power to energy-guzzling smelter.

Malaysia’s government last year set a lower rate on the power generated from the Bakun dam in Sarawak, selling it to Sarawak Energy at RM0.0625 per kilowatt hour (KwH) with an expected increase of 1.5 per cent every year.

The new rate is within Sarawak’s offer to buy electricity at RM0.05 and RM0.07 per KwH in order to secure investments from smelters for whom energy accounts for a third of costs.

Shares in Cahya Mata closed up 0.4 per cent while Rio’s shares in London were up 1.7 per cent at 1050 GMT. — Reuters

The CMS-Rio Tinto project was the first of three such aluminium smelter projects announced in the past few years. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had said last June that the National Economic Council had approved the joint venture by 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Development Company (Mubadala) to develop a RM12.7billion technologically advanced energy-efficient aluminium smelter.

The investment is expected to create more than 40,000 skilled jobs.

The other large smelter is between GIIG Holdings Sdn Bhd, a company controlled by billionaire Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary, and Aluminium Corp of China Ltd (Chalco), the world’s second largest producer of alumina, have teamed up to jointly develop an aluminium smelter plant in Samalaju Industrial Park in Bintulu, Sarawak at the cost of US$1billion.

The smelter plant will have an initial annual production capacity of 330,000 tonnes but it could rise to 1.25 million tonnes.

The only running smelter at the moment is Press Metal Bhd’s 60,000-tonne plant in Mukah, which has been operational since November 2009. It uses about 10 MW of power that is supplied by Sarawak Energy Bhd.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Baram Folks want Baram Dam Cancelled

22nd March 2012: MIRI - The Baram folks living in Miri had a meeting at a local hotel last night to discuss on the issues relating to the government’s proposal to build at least two mega dams in the Baram district. There were about seventy people at the meeting which was organized by the SAVE Rivers Network, an organization comprising of none government organizations and concerned individuals.

After hours of discussion the meeting came up with a jointly signed letter address to the CEO of Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB), Mr. Thorstien Dale Sjotveit, the meeting wants the SEB to stop all works which are related to the construction of the dams. Instead, they request the government to develop alternative methods of power generation which are people and environment friendly. Copies of the letter were sent to the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, to the Sarawak Chief Minsiter, Pehin Seri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud, the Chairman of SUHAKAM, the Member of Parliament for Baram, YB Dato’ Jacob Dungau Sagan and the  member of State Legislative Council for Telang Usan, YB Dennis Ngau.

The meeting discussed activities on the site works which are being carried out in Baram to prepare for the proposed dams’ constructions. At the moment, these works involved the surveying of the access road to the dams’ sites, soil studies and other related preliminary studies which is overseen by the Sarawak Energy Berhad, the project’s owner.

The meeting was informed that the previous week, representatives from SEB had a meeting with villagers from Long Na’aa, a village near to one of the dam’s site. At that meeting the villagers were informed that a second phase of preliminary studies for the dam is to be carried in April this year. It was learnt that most of those who came out of that meeting were not happy about the possible impact of the dam on them. Commenting on this the chairman of SAVE Rivers Network, Peter Kallang said, “In implementing projects of this nature, we request for the authorities to abide by the international standard and requirements especially the United Nation Declaration for the Right of the Indigenous People (UNDRIP). The rights of the indigenous people must be respected and they must not be relocated against their will.”

With regard to the land affected by the proposed road to the dams’ sites, the meeting was told that the extinguishment of the native customary rights had already been imposed last year in the middle of 2011, by the Land and Survey Department. However, it was also learnt that most of the land owners are not aware of the extinguishment exercise on their land. One of those whose land is affected by the land right extinguishments, Mr. Dorus Katan told the meeting, “In June last year, I was with a group of about eight land owners who went to see officers from the Land and Survey Department in Long Lama. We went to ask about our lands which are affected by the access road. At that meeting, there was a lot of dissatisfaction because the survey was done without proper consultation. But instead it went ahead without our knowledge so crops, fruit trees, rubber trees and plants on the route were cutoff and destroyed. Most of the group members at that meeting did not fill and sign the compensation claim forms as provided because they were against the dams’ projects and did not want to lose their lands.”

At a state level conference organized by SAVE Rivers Network recently, delegates from the various dams’ site were also not happy with the proposed twelve dams to be constructed in Sarawak. The conference wanted the project on the 12 mega dams in Sarawak to be stopped immediately.

Participants of the briefing

Participants of the briefing

Panel speakers

One of the women participants stating her point

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Norwegian manager accused of duping Borneo natives

22nd March 2012 – for immediate release