Sand mining along Sungai Perak. PIC BY ABDULLAH YUSOF

KUALA LUMPUR: Growing global demand for sand is seeing sand smuggling flourishing and syndicates have found ways around the system placed to prevent the valuable natural resource from being sold on the black market.

Reports on the arrival of 55,000 tonnes of sand from the west coast of Malaysia in India have raised concerns among enforcers, with Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar saying his ministry had issued approved permits (APs) to two companies to export sand to India, which were for extraction in Pahang and Kelantan.

Lorries transporting sand without permit in Perak. PIC COURTESY OF MENTERI BESAR INCORPORATED

Another company was allowed to export sand to Singapore.

The price of illicit sand, which was reportedly sold to India at a rate 50 per cent lower than the market price, had also raised concerns among industry players. 

“The price (RM4 per cubic feet) is too low... even compared with the price here,” said an industry player. 

It is understood that the export to India could have been done illicitly and that it came from neither of the two companies.

The New Straits Times had, in the past few weeks, attempted to contact a few local sand exporters who claimed that they could supply not only sand extracted from rivers in Pahang and Kelantan, but also in Perak. 

One of the exporters had claimed that it was their shipment that arrived in India recently, stressing that the trade was “legal”. 

NST checks, however, revealed that the company was not among the two sanctioned to do so.

While the ministry had made it clear that only river sand from Pahang and Kelantan could be extracted for export, NST, however, got in touch with other exporters who claimed they could supply sand from rivers in Perak. 

The sand, which was sold at US$23 (RM96) per metric tonne, would be exported via a vessel, said the supplier.

Datuk Aminudin Hashim

Perak’s Menteri Besar Incorporated (MB Inc) chief executive officer Datuk Aminudin Hashim told the NST that the state agency had never issued the K2 permit, which allows exports, to anyone. 

“MB Inc has a K2 permit quota, but we have never used it because we have to get an AP from the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry to do so.

“MB Inc does not have any, as the ministry has only given APs for river sand to be extracted from the Pahang and Kelantan rivers.”

Industry sources, however, claimed that illegal sand could have been exported in disguise or transferred illegally via sea lanes. 

“Enforcers had arrested a lorry driver who attempted to sell sand outside Perak without the K3 permit (licence to export sand outside of Perak but in Malaysia). He declared the sand, hidden inside one tonne silo bags, as something else.

 “There were also cases where lorry drivers declared that they were transporting sand to Penang, but then diverted the consignment to other countries,” sources said. 

NST was also let in on illicit roles played by hardware shop owners and lorry drivers. 

“Sand miners would sell their haul to hardware stores near the state’s borders, which, in turn, would fill it into silo bags. Lorry drivers from outside of Perak would pick them up.

“The state government loses not only taxes (because they did not apply for K3 permits), but have no power to control the illicit consignments once they cross the state borders,” the source said, adding that the sand would normally be sold at almost three times its price. 

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