KOTA KINABALU, May 26 — A RM2 billion state sand mining project set to start in June is worrying the predominantly fishing villages in the coastal town of Sikuati, Kudat here.

The silica mining project comes under the state’s five-year Sabah Maju Jaya plan and will be carried out by China-owned Kibing Solar New Materials (M) Sdn Bhd on a 2,200-acre plot of land near Kg Sikuati, news portal The Vibes reported today.

"Our concern is the impact of the sand dredging, on whether it will cause harm to the environment and my village as well as the surrounding areas," Kg Andap Jawa village chief Sutiman Pardi told the news portal.

Kg Andap Jawa is 3km from the coast, where most of the sand mining activities will be carried out.

Sutiman said the company has agreed to not to disturb land where the villagers’ houses are built as well as promised around 300 jobs for the locals when the project takes off.

According to the news report, the project is expected to create 2,000 job opportunities — 80 per cent will be designated to locals, with 300 of them to those in Kudat and adjacent Kota Marudu districts.

The Vibes reported Kibing Solar New Materials saying the project will improve the lives of residents in the area, even as the company has applied for 300 work permits to hire 300 China nationals in Sabah.

Kudat district officer Bakri Nanun reportedly supports the project and told the news portal that there is some opposition from the affected villagers, but said the public unhappiness was more subdued compared to a similar proposal to mine sand on Balambangan island in 2019.

"I think Kudat folk are now more understanding. They need to come out of the poverty trap. They must agree to this project. If not, Kudat will remain one of the eight poorest districts in Malaysia," he was quoted saying.

According to the news report, Sabah Parks — which jointly manages the almost 900,000-ha Tun Mustapha Marine Park in the vicinity — has given the project provisional support, with environmental practice guidelines.

Its director Maklarin Lakim said that the project will need to adhere to recommendations from any Environmental Impact Assessments before mining can begin.

"If the project will pose a risk to the environment, I am certain the project will not be allowed to proceed," he was quoted saying.

Maklarin added that the local communities will no longer need to depend on marine resources once they are hired by the firm.