KOTA KINABALU: Police will extend a special operation to protect the country’s resources after illegal gold mining activities were uncovered in Sabah’s east coast Lahad Datu district.
These activities were believed to have been going on for decades at the Ulu Segama-Malua Forest Reserve.
Bukit Aman internal security and public order director Hazani Ghazali said the discovery was made during the Khazanah Integrated Operation (OBK).
This involved the General Operations Force (GOF), Sabah wildlife department, Sabah forestry department, Sabah Parks, and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
The team found evidence of illegal gold mining in the forest reserve area in August. This included underground tunnels and six mining areas stretching across 8km near Sungai Bole.
They also found at least 103 holes in the ground, which were 10-17m deep. The holes were used as entry and exit points to the underground tunnels.
The OBK team also believed that, from the evidence left behind, the mining activities had been going on since the 1990s.
In a briefing for Hazani yesterday, Sabah GOF brigade deputy chief Toipi Lamat, who is also the OBK field commanding officer, said the suspects in the illegal gold mining activities had fled before the raids were conducted in August.
He believed they had stayed in the area for some time as fruit trees and vegetable farms were found around 14 huts built there. Tents, treehouses and even a basketball court were found there.
Toipi said two of the miners were suspected to have died after being trapped in a collapsed tunnel. Another was believed to have died in a fight and another from malaria. Their nationalities could not be established.
OBK may be expanded
Hazani felt there was sufficient reason to prolong the OBK, which was supposed to come to an end yesterday. It began 67 days ago.
“I am supposed to close this operation, but I don’t want to. OBK will go on in Sabah. In fact, I will take the OBK in Sabah as a model to the peninsula and Sarawak,” he told reporters after visiting the state OBK operation centre in Sandakan yesterday.
“If my proposal is approved, I will include other government agencies in the OBK for sure.”
Since it was launched on Aug 13, he said the operation had netted goods valued at RM3.2 million in 66 cases. Hazani said the country had lost a lot more through such illegal activities.
“I will propose that drastic action be taken under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (2012) (Sosma) and Prevention of Crime Act (1959) (Poca) as well as Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act (2001).
“These criminals are earning a lot from illegal activities and I am sure there are syndicates involved.
“I will also suggest to the government to widen the scope of the Wildlife Crime Bureau – approved in June – to the National Treasure Crime Bureau so that it covers illegal logging, mining, hunting and the exploitation of flora and fauna.”