Malaysian minister says sea sand export ban wasn’t targeted at Singapore

A stockpile of sand is pictured in Singapore.

After a ban on sea sand exports, Malaysia’s Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister now says the government’s decision was not made to impinge on Singapore’s land reclamation efforts as global news reports have suggested.

In a report by The Star on Thursday (July 4), Dr Xavier Jayakumar noted that Singapore “can always buy sand from other countries” and that Malaysia does not have the right to prevent countries from carrying out reclamation.

Read also: In blow to Singapore’s expansion, Malaysia bans sea sand exports

He also said the ban had already been introduced in May last year after Pakatan Harapan took over the federal government.

“The government has decided that at present, there is no need for us to export sand to any country outside Malaysia. It was a decision made by [the] cabinet and we followed through,” Dr Jayakumar said.

Malay Mail reported that the measures were introduced to protect the environment after a study by the Minerals and Geoscience Department found that sea sand mining cannot be done more than three kilometres outside the shoreline.

“A hydrological study was done in order to ensure the seabed is safe for us to extract the sand because there is environmental impact,” Dr Jayakumar was quoted as saying.

The Star also reported him as saying that the ban would not affect government revenues since the amount obtained from sand exportation is considered “very small”. He added that the revenue to the state and the federal government comes only from taxation of the companies involved in the mining and export process.

With regards to the likelihood of antagonising its neighbour, Dr Jayakumar said that the ban would not complicate bilateral ties as the move had no correlation with Singapore’s expansion plans.

Nonetheless, he noted that river sand can still be exported to Singapore but only under the approval of the Prime Minister.

Given the high global demand for sand, Dr Jayakumar said the move would apply to other countries as well, including China, India, Mauritius and Brunei.

Citing statistics from the United Nations Comtrade, The Star reported that Singapore imported 50 million tonnes of sand from Malaysia last year, with a total cost of S$347 million (US$256 million or RM1.1 billion).

The figure accounted for 97 per cent of Singapore’s total sand imports by volume and 95 per cent of Malaysia’s global sand sales that year.

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