Malaysia

Activists lose last court battle in bid to block Raub gold mine

Raub activists outside the Federal Court in Putrajaya on September 6, 2012 for the hearing of the application, which they lost. — Picture by Saw Siow FengRaub activists outside the Federal Court in Putrajaya on September 6, 2012 for the hearing of the application, which they lost. — Picture by Saw Siow FengPUTRAJAYA, Sept 6 — Raub activists today lost in the Federal Court their last bid for a judicial review of the government-approved Preliminary Environmental Impact Assessment (PEIA) report submitted by Raub Australian Gold Mining SB, a week after thousands of people marched in the small Pahang town to protest the use of cyanide by the miner.

Raub was the focus of last weekend’s Himpunan Hijau amid growing unhappiness with the Australian miner’s operations. Residents have complained that the use of cyanide has given rise to a number of health complaints although this has been denied by the authorities.

Today, a five-man Federal Court panel led by Court of Appeals president Tan Sri Raus Sharif dismissed the leave application for judicial review brought by the Ban Cyanide in Gold Mining Action Committee (BCAC) on grounds the group had delayed its application and merit was not warranted in extended time.

“We have deliberated on this appeal, and we have unanimously decided... There is no ground to disturb findings of courts below,” Raus said.

“We answer the questions in the negative,” he added.

The committee had on March 21, 2008 filed an application for leave for judicial review to request the setting aside of the approval of the PEIA on January 13, 1997 by the director-general of the Department of Enviroment.

In 2009, the High Court had dismissed the leave application on the grounds that “the application for leave for judicial review should have been brought within 40 days from the date of the approval of the PEIA or the date the villagers knew about the approval of the PEIA”.

The decision was then upheld by the Court of Appeal in 2011.

When met outside the courtroom, BCAC’s lawyer Malik Imtiaz was noticeably upset with the outcome but said he respected the decision of the court.

“We don’t know how the villagers can move any faster,” he said, referring to his argument earlier that residents only learned about the usage of cyanide in the gold mine in December 2006.

He added the panel was “very conservative in judgment and did not consider the health risks posed to the villagers.

“We think the panel did not address the reports by the experts saying the cyanide used in gold mining is risky to the lives of villagers,” he said.

“It is not a progressive decision,” he added.

Asked what would be the group’s next course of action, BCAC secretary Hue Fun How said the committee has yet to decide and will have to discuss it further.

Raus had ordered the residents to pay costs of RM15,000 despite Malik’s argument that this was a public interest matter in which the lower courts did not order costs.

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