Malaysia doesn’t have rich resource of bauxite (raw mineral for aluminium), we don’t have a large market for aluminium, and our labour cost is no longer the cheapest these days… the only reason for Rio Tinto to invest in Sarawak is because of the company’s need for high power supply, which the controversial Bakun Dam will be able to provide.
This raise my questions… why do we build the Bakun Dam at the first place? Isn’t Bakun built to supply sufficient energy for Malaysia for the next few decades?
It’s reported that about 900MW will be used by the smelter, out of the 2,400MW capacity Bakun is going to produce. So, Malaysia is spending billions of dollars, and bearing environmental damage to build the dam that should benefit the citizens for years… but it’s now mostly going to benefit a British-Australian company and a local conglomerate instead?
Besides, aluminium (and other metals) smelters are known for its hazardous environmental effect. Modern days smelters should be able to minimize the environmental impact; question is if the company is willing to spend loads of money into minimizing the damage.
Even if the company is willing to invest on environmental safety measures, there are still risks involved when handling the toxic waste. The easiest way to dispose the waste is by using landfill, but if any leakage happens during the handling, or after being buried… it could spell environmental disaster.
On the positive note… it is going to create working opportunities, some 4000+ directly or indirectly; and it is going to increase Malaysia’s GDP.
The main question is however… who are the real beneficiaries from the deal? The largest beneficiaries are probably Rio Tinto, Cahya Mata, and the company that is going to run Bakun Dam. Besides the 4000+ workers, I don’t see other common citizens benefiting much from it.