By EDMUND NGO
The setting up of the proposed Kinta Valley Geopark in Simpang Pulai will affect the eight quarries operating around the area, according to Perak Quarry Association.
Association president Chong Sook Kian said the geopark could cause the quarries to cease operations, affecting 400 employees there.
“Other than the direct employees, there are also three times that number of indirect employments, such as lorry drivers, whose livelihoods will be affected if the quarries close down.
“The association is not against the idea of setting up a geopark but we felt that Gua Tempurung is a more suitable location compared to Simpang Pulai,” he said in a press conference on June 17.
Last year the State Minerals and Geoscience Department had presented a paper proposing to turn 16 limestone hills into geopark, sites, which would be similar to the one in Langkawi.
Although there was verbal agreement to establish the geopark the final decision will only be made when the matter is brought to the state executive council.
Chong said Gua Tempurung was a more suitable site as the surrounding area was untarnished by human activities, which would be instrumental in the state government’s efforts to gain Unesco Heritage site status for the geopark.
“The quarries at the site have been operating for 20 years so we hope to engage the state government and other stakeholders before the geopark is set up,” he said.
Apart from the geopark, Chong said the association also hoped the state government would reconsider the new export royalty rate, which would come into effect on July 1.
“We were briefed that the state government has gazetted the amendment to increase the export royalty for limestone from RM2 per metric tonne to RM7 per metric tonne, while for granite, it has been increased from RM1.80 per metric tonne to RM5 per metric tonne.
“The last increase was made in 2001 and we felt that the increase this time was too significant.
“Furthermore, granite quarries, which are located in Manjung, face stiff competition from Johor and other countries in exporting the rocks to Singapore.
“The royalty increase will add to their operating costs and put them at a disadvantage,” he said.
Chong said the association presented a memorandum to Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir and the state Land and Mineral Office, hoping that they could reconsider the increase.
“We are suggesting that the limestone export royalty tax be increased to RM5 per metric tonne while the granite export royalty tax to stay the same as the granite industry is facing strong competition,” he said.