BDA courts US investors

Rio Tintos planned Similajau entry makes Bintulu an attractive hub for energy intensive industries: GM

NEW YORK: Bintulu seems to be inching its way on to the worlds industrial map, especially after the announcement by Australian mining giant, Rio Tinto, to set up an alumina-based plant in Similajau, which is within the administrative district of Bintulu.

Representatives of the Bintulu Development Authority (BDA), which describes itself as a one-stop agency established to promote the development of Bintulu, have been courting US investors to set up operations in Bintulu which, according to the BDA, is set to become the new industrial powerhouse of Sarawak with attractive industrial attributes for setting up heavy industries that are energy intensive and dependent on deep-sea port.

Mohidin Ishak, general manager of the Bintulu Development Authority (BDA), in New York as one of the delegates accompanying Minister of International Trade and Industry Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin the latter has already returned to Malaysia on completion of his investment mission to the United States stated in an interview with Bernama that Sarawak was extremely happy with Rio Tintos decision to set up a plant in Similajau which is served by the BDA.

Aluminium is one of the major projects which the Sarawak government is promoting because of the energy availability in Bintulu. Rio Tinto has already received the licence from the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority (Mida) to set up a smelter in Similajau which is about 60km from Bintulu Port in Kidurong, Mohidin explained.

Since our establishment 30 years ago, we have been developing Kidurong and have created the necessary infrastructure. The new development area called Similajau will be much bigger, stretching to some 2,000 hectare land and will be developed for industry, he added.

Meanwhile, aluminium industry circles in the United States say that it would make economic sense for Rio Tinto to also set up a refinery after it had established its aluminium producing plant.

The refinery can be used to process bauxite into alumina which is used for the production of aluminium.

The electricity that will be generated by the Bakun dam is of the order of 2,400 megawatts, said one US corporate executive who preferred to remain anonymous while speaking to Bernama on the sideline of a seminar on Malaysia-US Business Opportunities in New York.

The Bakun power-generating dam is expected to be completed by 2011 or even earlier.

Rio Tinto, meanwhile, has already commissioned a feasibility study for the project, a step which experts say is a clear sign that the mining giant is now serious about this project. Partnering with a Sarawak-based company, Rio Tinto has formed a joint venture called the Sarawak Aluminium Company (Salco).

The BDA has made provisions in its master plan for two aluminium plants.

The Sarawak government is interested in attracting the power-dependent heavy industry to the state which can supply cheap and abundant power.

The states power-generating capacity, according to Mohidin, is 28,000 megawatts which should be developed by 2037.

The state proposes to sell the power not only to the rest of Malaysia but also to the Asean region. Sarawak has been designated part of the so-called Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE).

Bintulus hinterland has abundant palm-oil trees. We have a sustainable programme for our palm cultivation, Mohidin added.

The Sarawak government is also planning to set up a pulp mill in Samarakan because of its abundant forests and the reforestation programmes.

The BDA made a strong pitch in the United States for industries such as aluminium and steel production, refinery for oil and other liquids, flat glass, heavy marine engineering and other industries such as textiles.