In view of the letters titled, “Quarry’s response to complaints” and “Historical limestone gone forever” published in the September 1-15 issue of the Ipoh Echo, Lafarge Malaysia Berhad (formerly known as Lafarge Malayan Cement Berhad) would like to reassure the public that it is committed to working with local stakeholders to promote and protect biodiversity. Around the world and in Malaysia, Lafarge employs a sound and responsible approach to its quarrying activities, and has in place quarry development plans which take into account sensitive environmental aspects.
Underground mining is a common method employed for mining coal, gemstones and rocks. Mining techniques deployed are dependent on geological and hydrological conditions. Each situation is very unique and the area where underground mining takes place needs to be very stable. In the case of Gunung Kanthan, taking into consideration the necessary conditions required, we are not looking into this option.
To address biodiversity concerns, Lafarge is currently working with local stakeholders and, more specifically, is collaborating with a qualified and independent team at the University of Malaya’s (UM) Institute of Biological Sciences to assess biodiversity sensitivities in the area. The UM team is working in partnership with Lafarge’s International Biodiversity Panel whose members include representatives from IUCN France and the Wildlife Habitat Council amongst others.
Moving forward, Lafarge will continue to engage environmental groups, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to work towards preserving biodiversity at Gunung Kanthan. We will only make a decision on how to proceed with our quarrying operations once the relevant studies, including biodiversity have been completed.
Kanthan Plant Manager
Lafarge Malaysia Berhad
Gua Kanthan is one of the most visited caves in the Kinta Valley and is nicknamed “The Cathedral” because of its impressive size. It is located in Gunung Kanthan, just outside of Chemor and is the northernmost limestone hill in the Kinta Valley.
Many parts of Gunung Kanthan are already being quarried. Pan Malaysia Cement Works Bhd (PMCW) started in 1964 and today, almost 50 years later, Lafarge Malaysia Berhad is the quarry company operating there. Readers will remember the huge quarry works straddling the Chemor to Sg. Siput road. Much of the northern part of the hill has already been destroyed.
Gua Kanthan is an impressive cave because of its huge size and the fact that it has a river flowing through. If visitors are there at the right time on a sunny day, they will be impressed by a shaft of sunlight beaming through the back chamber.
Apart from its appeal to cavers, Gua Kanthan is also home to cave fauna, such as bats and invertebrates. However its most important inhabitant is Liphistius kanthan. This is a trapdoor spider and it is endemic to the cave, having been found nowhere else. The spider is termed as a “living fossil” as it has a segmented body, unlike present day spiders.
Liphistius kanthan is listed on the Malaysian Wildlife Conservation Bill (2012 amendment) as a protected species (hidupan liar yang dilindungi). And now it has been placed on the IUCN Red List as ‘critically endangered’. Critically endangered is the highest level of danger for living creatures. The next level is extinct. IUCN is the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
In April 2013 it was announced that Lafarge intends to quarry the area of hill where Gua Kanthan is located. Since then groups of people have been making known the importance of saving this area of the hill. Apart from the cave, the hill is also home to endemic species of flora such as Paraboea as well as a rare palm. And there is the human factor: there are currently four places of worship around this sector of the hill, as well as farmers and fish pond operators.
We hope that Lafarge will take all these into consideration. Above all we hope they will realise the fact that the Liphistius kanthan trapdoor spider is on the international Red List as ‘critically endangered’.