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Archives 2011

Some items from the press relating to caves

Contents :
Thaipusam 2011 & Batu Caves cable car
Dolomite mining to boost Perlis's economy
Mulu Caves 2011 BCRA
Kelantan Malays traced back to 60,000 years
Niah Cave to be a World Heritage site, Cocktail parties in Niah Cave
100-year-old temple in Bercham to have a grand celebration
Kenyir - Bewah Man is now 13,400 years old , and may be a woman
Terengganu To Built Facilities At Gua Bewah In Tasik Kenyir
Kenyir Lake may be next geo-park after Langkawi
International trade in stalactites
Best caving destination
Langkawi & Sarawak geoparks
Visit Perak Year 2012, clean up of Sam Poh Tong and Gua Tempurung
Export of limestone
Rampant limestone quarrying
Bujang Valley civilisation is older than Perak Man
Perak Geological Museum


Thaipusam 2011

Interesting that the idea of the cable car has resurfaced. It was first suggested in 1999 but didn't get beyond the planning stage. Then it was proposed again in 2007. Now it is planned to be completed within 12 months. [The project did not happen, but the idea was brought up again in 2012]

NST 16 Jan 2011 wrote:
Cable car service in Batu Caves next year

Devotees and tourists visiting Batu Caves can look forward to using a new cable car service next year instead of climbing up the 272 steps leading to the temple. The RM10 million cable car project is expected to be completed in time for next year's celebrations. Temple chairman Datuk R. Nadarajah said: "The service is to cater for the elderly and disabled." A memorandum of understanding will be signed between the temple management and developer of the cable car project, Damodar Ropeways, a Calcutta-based company on Thursday. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak will witness the signing of the MoU along with Indian High Commissioner to Malaysia Vijay Gokhale.

STAR January 15 2011
Direct trains to Batu Caves for Thaipusam

Devotees heading to Batu Caves for Thaipusam can look forward to a faster and more convenient journey this year. KTM Bhd is providing 182 direct shuttle trains between the old KL railway station and Batu Caves in conjunction with the festival. It will be the first time KTMB is offering the service which will run for three days from Jan 19 to 21. Thaipusam falls on Jan 20. An additional 36 trains will also be provided for return trips on other routes which are the Rawang-KL, Seremban-KL and the Klang-Batu Caves lines. “We expect 80,000 people to use the additional services this year,”said KTMB commuter services senior manager Azreen Mohamed Yusup, adding that food and drink stalls as well as a reflexology corner would be set up at the Batu Caves station. She said passengers will also enjoy a special discount on ticket prices from any station heading towards Batu Caves. Meanwhile, visitors to Batu Caves will be able to take a cable car ride to the Sri Subramaniam Swamy Temple at the top of the hill next year. Temple chairman Datuk R. Nadarajah said the RM10mil project is expected to be completed in time for the 2012 Thaipusam festival. “The service will benefit the elderly and physically disabled who are unable to climb the 272 stairs,” he said. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) will be signed between the temple management and the developer of the cable car service, Calcutta-based Damodar Ropeways, during Thaipusam on Jan 20. He added that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had accepted the invitation to join the celebrations and witness the signing of the MOU along with Indian High Commissioner to Malaysia Vijay Gokhale.

On 18 Jan, Star reported that "The temple’s information officer B. Vivekanda said a cable car project to ferry devotees and tourists up to the temple was now underway. The project, he said, was expected to be completed by end of the year. “The cable car will not only benefit the elderly and disabled, but also visitors who want a comfortable ride to visit the temple at the peak of the hill,” he said."

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In recent years Thaipusam has become more commercial each year, with a fun fair and other forms of entertainment, as well as many stalls. This year the fun fair has been set up even though the permit has not been issued. All this commercialism leads to people cashing in on everything. Stalls are being rented out for 8x the normal price, touts are illegally collecting parking fees, and even the cost of going to the toilet has been raised!

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Dolomite mining to boost Perlis's economy

The NST 20 Jan 2011 reported that dolomite had been found in the limestone Chuping hills in Perlis. The report:

In the Chuping and Bukit Guar Sami area lies an unknown treasure trove.
It was only recently that the state government, with the assistance of the state Minerals and Geoscience Department, discovered that the limestone hills around Chuping and Bukit Guar Sanji are rich in dolomite (a common sedimentary rock-forming mineral).
Dolomite is used for a variety of purposes due to its versatility. It is mainly used in the construction industry and is often used as a substitute for limestone. Industrial uses of dolomite include the manufacturing of glass.
Dolomite is also a mineral that is full of magnesia. It is used as a fertiliser and in construction and ceramic industry. Magnesia is used for medical purposes and relieves heartburn caused by gas.
In the construction industry, limestone has enormous commercial significance as it is the basis of cement.
With the latest discovery, the state government has realised the potential of the dolomite in transforming the fortunes of the state.
It now wants to put the dolomite from the limestone hills to better use as the dolomite found in the state is said to be of high quality.
Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Md Isa Sabu said the rocks from the limestone hills, which was previously used for building village roads, would now be used more for glass, marble, art and medication industries.
In view of the latest findings, the menteri besar has ordered the dolomite quarry activities around Chuping and Bukit Guar Sami to be closely monitored.
There are three companies involved in the dolomite quarry operations. However, the three companies are said to be too slow in their operations. They have been given until the end of this year to prove themselves and to uplift the dolomite industry in Perlis. Their licences will be revoked if they fail to do so.
"We will look into the activities of the quarry operators to ensure no unplanned operation takes place," Isa said.
Isa and other state executive councillors were recently given a briefing on the potential of the dolomite industry.
About 30 per cent of the state is made up of limestone hills.

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Mulu Caves 2011 BCRA

The BCRA Mulu Caves 2011 expedition started in mid Feb. One priority was to accurately survey and also attempt to 3D scan Sarawak Chamber. Then the expedition shifted its focus to the north end of Gunung Api, and continued the exploration of Whiterock River and also to climb up to a hole in the cliff face. The expedition finished at end of March and Clearwater had been extended, pushing it up in the world rankings.

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Kelantan Malays traced back to 60,000 years

From The Star 5 Aug 2011.
Study shows Kelantan Malays in peninsula first

According to a Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) genetics research, the Kelantan Malays could be the first of its race to have stepped foot in the peninsula, Berita Harian reported.

Their presence was said to have been traced back to 60,000 years.

The research, led by USM health science studies centre deputy dean (research and graduate studies) Assoc Prof Dr Zafarina Zainuddin, was funded with a RM1.4mil grant from the Higher Education Ministry.

The research studied the origins of 10 sub-ethnic groups of Malays in Peninsular Malaysia Jawa Malay (Johor and Selangor), Acehnese Malay (Perak), Minang Malay (Negri Sembilan), Banjar Malay (Selangor and Johor), Bugis Malay (Selangor and Johor), Rawa Malay (Perak), Champa Malay (Perak, Kedah and Kelantan), Patani (Kelantan), Langkasuka Kedah and Kelantan Malay.

“This genetics research is the first of its kind that studied the origins of the Malay race,” said Dr Zafarina.

Of the groups that were studied, only those of the Kelantan Malay presented a unique haplogroup, which is mitochondrial DNA group specific to a particular race and geographic location, she said, adding that their genetic make-up showed links to Jawa Malays.

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An application was submitted in 2010 for Niah Cave to be a World Heritage site.

Govt confident Niah Caves will be World Heritage site soon — Talib

Borneo Post July 21, 2011

The state government has high hopes that the Niah Caves that sheltered early humans more than 40,000 years ago will be listed as a World Heritage site soon.
With this in mind, Assistant Minister for Tourism Datuk Talib Zulpilip said the state government had sent all the necessary paper work to Unesco.
Saying the state would follow up on the matter, he pointed out that the listing was very important and would have far reaching benefits not only to the people in Sarawak and Malaysia but also to the world community.
Among the benefits, he said, are tourism attractions and development as the caves and park are already popular tourist attractions, and getting the caves listed as a World Heritage site could also attract conservation funding.
“While the government and the relevant agencies are doing their best to have the caves listed as historical site, and also continue becoming places of attraction, the people, particularly visitors to the caves, too must play their roles.
“Visitors, please stop the ‘modern paintings’ on the caves. It is very disgusting and insulting to the heritage,” he said.
Talib told reporters this on Tuesday before leading members of the Tourism Taskforce Group (TTG) Miri Division, staff of his ministry and the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) in the ‘gotong royong’ project to remove graffiti in the caves.
Among those present were Sibuti MP Ahmad Lai Bujang, deputy chairman of TTG Abdul Aziz Yusuf, who is also the Deputy Resident of Miri Division, SFC Miri head Abang Araby Abang Aimran, Niah Park warden Haidar Ali and the Miri coordinator of Totally Protected Areas Kamal Abdullah
Earlier, Talib and his entourage, who were given a briefing on the caves and the management of the Niah National Park by Haidar, were told that painting of graffiti in the caves was worsening. To this, Talib said they were acts of vandals, while urging SFC and the caves stake holders to take stern actions against the culprits.
“Strictly enforce the regulations and those found guilty should have their names published in the newspapers.
“The natural beauty of this place is the attraction. These include the paintings done thousands of years ago and as such visitors, particularly Sarawakians, should be proud of this heritage and help preserve them,” he urged.
Talib also proposed that SFC provide a visitors’ book apart from organising competitions to create greater appreciation for the caves and park.

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Cocktail parties in Niah Cave

The Star Sunday August 14, 2011
Wilderness sells

IT’S a universal fact: Wherever they are, conference delegates love ditching their suits and ties for unique experiences outside their meeting rooms and convention halls. And Sarawak certainly has those to offer in abundance.
“Nature meets high-tech” has been Sarawak’s selling point since the state began focusing on developing the Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions, or MICE, sector. The Sarawak Conventions Bureau (SCB, sarawakcb.com) boasts a sterling track record of winning 80% of the bids it makes for smaller conventions and incentive groups below 500 that are seeking something different away from capital cities.
“SCB’s biggest achievement has been in successfully changing Sarawak from a virtual unknown conventions destination four years ago to become the second strongest venue (nationally) after Kuala Lumpur,” says Jill Henry, SCB chief executive officer.
“Our strengths include the unique culture of Sarawak’s diverse people that translates into a very special, relaxed and memorable style of meetings,” she explains, adding that, nowadays, delegates are also attracted by the opportunity to “leave more than footprints behind” through programmes that allow them to participate in rural poverty and health improvement efforts or conservation.
The SCB has won nine international advertising and marketing awards for its destination marketing campaigns and bid videos that convey an adventurous spirit to event planners.
However, Henry says it is challenging to break into the national market that traditionally accounts for the majority of business in second tier cities like Kuching. Most associations are headquartered in KL.
“When people take flights, they naturally seek out international destinations although we have great venues and facilities. We recognise that as a second tier destination we do not have the population base to support large consumer based exhibitions, so we focus on specific trade exhibitions linked to association conventions. We have already held successful regional exhibitions on relevant topics including renewable energy, infrastructure development and green technology.”
The market is set to expand further, Henry adds.
“We are still very new in the international market but we are in the right part of the world, as the old bastions of the conventions industry in Europe and the United States are slowly losing market share to destinations in the Asia Pacific such as China, South Korea and India.”
Here’s a sampling of ideas for the MICE sector in Sarawak, as provided by the SCB:
Cocktails in the caves: The Niah Caves National park is the site of the oldest human settlement in South-East Asia, and features the world’s largest limestone cave entrance as well as ancient rock paintings. Groups enter the caves with torchlight to illuminate the beautiful natural formations, before settling down for a subterranean cocktail party.

100-year-old temple in Bercham to have a grand celebration

Star 18 Aug 2011

THE Huat Tian Keong temple in Bercham is a unique place of worship with 88 types of Taoist, Buddhist and Hindu deities in its cave.
Among them are statues of the ‘Laughing Buddha’, Lord Ganesha, Thailand’s monk Lombok Khoon, a Siamese God ‘Lusi’ (King of Bomoh) and the temple’s main deity Huat Tian Keong (Datuk Hitam).
There are also the figurines of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac.
Temple treasurer Sunny Mangal Singh, who is of Punjabi-Chinese parentage, said the temple had been in existence for over 100 years.
He said he had sourced the statues from all over the world to be placed at the temple located on a 3.2ha site.
A 60-feet tall dragon statue is neatly placed on the outside of the cave making it look like it is descending from the top of the cave.
To fulfill a vow for his business to flourish, Mangal Singh also constructed a feng shui mountain in 2004.
He added that in 2008, the state government had declared the area as a temple reserve land.
“People of all races from all over the country and even tourists have been visiting this cave temple. The temple committee had also set up a restaurant for the devotees to get refreshments. We rely on donations and the profits from the restaurant is used to pay for utility bills,” he said.
Mangal Singh said to celebrate the birthday of the main deity, a grand procession had been planned on Aug 20 with a 1Malaysia concept.
The 4.5km procession would make its way to the main streets in Bercham.
“We will have Siamese, orang asli, Indian and bhangra dances, accompanied by Chinese drums and a kompang troupe following a decorated lorry carrying the deity,” he said, adding that 5,000 people would be attending the event.

See my photos on Huat Tian Keong temple.

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Bewah Man is now 13,400 years old

Bernama reported on August 28, 2011 that Bewah Man is now 13,400 years old. Last year his age varied between 8000-11,000 and 16,000 years.

Bewah Man to be focus of Terengganu archeology seminar

Bewah Man, the skeleton said to be 13,400 years old, will be the focus of Terengganu Archaeology Seminar and Exhibition here on Sept 25.
Terengganu Museum Board Assistant Curator Azuan Haron said the exhibition seek to disseminate chronology of historical and cultural information on the state via discoveries and artefacts.
"The discovery of Bewah Man in 2009 will be the main focus of the seminar, which will gather eight presenters among academic members from various fields to share knowledge," he told Bernama here.
Azuan said a visit to the site where Bewah Man was discovered is among programmes lined up at the three-day seminar.
In conjunction with the seminar, an archaeological exhibition will be held at the museum's Mandika Gallery from Sept 25.
Artefacts such as Bewah Man and stone age tools will also be displayed during the programme.
As comparison, a number of archaeological discoveries outside Terengganu like Perak Man and meteorite will also be put on display.

Gua Bewah in the news again

The Terengganu government has been trying to promote Gua Bewah for some years. This is the lastest piece in the press, taken from Bernama, 25 Sept 2011.
Terengganu To Built Facilities At Gua Bewah In Tasik Kenyir

The Terengganu government is considering building various facilities, including a floating exhibition center, to get more people to visit Gua Bewah in Tasik Kenyir, where the skeletal remains, believed to be those from the pre-historic age, were found.
Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Said said the floating center, which would have an escalator to the cave, would cost about RM15 million.
However, a study would have to be carried out to ascertain its safety, he told reporters after opening a seminar and exhibition on archaeology here Sunday.
Also present at the function were State Tourism, Culture, Arts and Heritage Committee Chairman Datuk Rahin Mohd Said and the State Museum director Mohd Yusof Abdullah.
Ahmad said Gua Bewah, believed to be more than 1,500 years old, had the potential to attract tourists, especially foreigners, because of the rich historical artifacts found in it.
In a related development, Ahmad said a study should be carried out on Bukit Jong Berlabuh in Kijal, Kemaman, following the discovery of sea cells in the cave to determine whether the location of the cave was previously an ocean.

This report was copied in NST on 25th. On 27th The Star did a piece :
Terengganu plans to build exhibition centre in 1,500-year-old cave

An exhibition centre in a cave is being planned at the historical Gua Bewah in Tasik Kenyir.
“Gua Bewah is believed to be 1,500 years old and it has a lot of historical artefacts which can attract tourists,” said Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Said yesterday.
He said the cave gained prominence after the discovery of Malay­sia’s oldest human skeleton there.
In March last year, Ahmad had said the skeletal remains were confirmed to be 16,000 years old.
He added that this made the skeleton the oldest in the country, followed by the Perak Man whose remains were 13,000 years old.
The Mentri Besar said the RM15mil three-storey exhibition centre that would showcase the state’s rich artefacts would incorporate green measures with plans to utilise solar or hybrid energy.
“If all goes well, we expect construction work to begin as early as next year,” he said after launching an archaeological seminar and exhibition at the state museum here.

Star Metro South & East 29 Sept
Floating exhibition centre in Gua Bewah

The state government is considering building various facilities, including a floating exhibition centre, to get more people to visit Gua Bewah in Tasik Kenyir, where skeletal remains, believed to be from the pre-historic age, were found.
Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Said said the floating centre, which would have an escalator to the cave, would cost about RM15mil.
However, a study would have to be carried out to ascertain its safety, he told reporters after opening a seminar and exhibition on archaeology recently.
Also present at the function were State Tourism, Culture, Arts and Heritage committee chairman Datuk Rahin Mohd Said and the State Museum director Mohd Yusof Abdullah.
Ahmad said Gua Bewah, believed to be more than 1,500 years old, had the potential to attract tourists, especially foreigners, because of the rich historical artifacts found in it.
In a related development, Ahmad said a study should be carried out on Bukit Jong Berlabuh in Kijal, Kemaman, following the discovery of sea cells in the cave to determine whether the cave was previously located in an ocean. — Bernama

I'm not quite sure how the cave is only 1500 years old (!!!) yet the skeleton is 16,000 years old!

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The next piece in the news was a suggested geo-park.

Star Property 3 Oct

Kenyir Lake may be next geo-park after Langkawi

After Langkawi, the Kenyir Lake area will become the country's next geo-park if a plan by the Terengganu Government works out.
“The state government will cooperate with the relevant agencies to carry out extensive research aimed at making Kenyir a geo-park,” Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Said said after opening a geological seminar here yesterday. He said Langkawi is recognised by Unesco as a world-class geological park and Kenyir would follow in its footsteps.
"We are confident of Kenyir's geological heritage and its surrounding areas, including evidence of past human civilisation.
“Such findings will surely attract tourists here as the lake's surrounding area also boasts the discovery of dinosaur fossil,” added Ahmad.

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Local researchers have been studying Bewah Man but are still uncertain if it is male or female. The Star Oct 9:

Bewah Man may be a woman

Local experts are working hard to decipher the mystery of the 16,000 years old “Bewah Man” currently kept under lock and key in the Terengganu Museum here.
Believed to be the oldest skeleton ever found in the country, the remains are being given the “five-star” treatment by the state government while 15 archaeologists and scientists toil daily to unlock its mystery.
To date, the local researchers have yet to verify the gender of the remains, which were discovered two years ago in Gua Bewah near Tasik Kenyir.
Museum director Yusof Abdullah said the remains were kept in a fully air- conditioned storage facility and closely guarded at all times.
“Only our conservation unit personnel and archaeologists involved in the research work pertaining to the remains are allowed access to the area as we do not want it to be tainted by bacteria or other outside elements.
“Even with the precautions in place, the skeletal remains are kept in a glass container to prevent it from deteriorating,” he said. Yusof added that the remains were the state's and the country's priceless treasure.
He said the museum might also seek the cooperation of experts from the United States to help in the research work on the remains.
“We hope to be able to make a breakthrough in our research by the end of the year or early next year,” he said.
The remains would be returned to the place where it was found once the research was completed, he added.
“We hope the remains will be able to attract visitors to the cave once the plan to turn Gua Bewah into a floating exhibition centre becomes a reality,” he said.
The state government is considering building various facilities around the area following the discovery of the skeletal remains.
Yusof said the age of the skeletal remains was also deciphered with the assistance of experts from the US.
The Bewah Man is the second prehistoric skeletal remains to be found in the area.
The first discovery was made in 1976, also around Gua Bewah.
But the age had been determined to be only about 2,500 years old.
Yusof said archaeologists had also made some interesting discoveries in the area over the years, including primitive equipment used during the Stone Age such as pots and axes as well as eating utensils.
“We believe Gua Bewah holds many treasures of its inhabitants during the Paleolithic and Mesolithic era.”

Star October 28, 2011

Research on oldest skeleton in Malaysia coming to an end, says director

KUALA TERENGGANU: The remains of what archaeologists believe to be the oldest skeleton ever found in the country – dating back 16,000 years – will be returned to the site where it was found in Gua Bewah, near here.
To date, local researchers have yet to verify the gender of the remains but they have named the skeleton “Bewah Man” after the cave, near Tasik Kenyir, where it was discovered two years ago.
The skeleton is currently being kept under lock and key at the Terengganu State Museum here, where some 15 archaeologists and scientists had been toiling daily to unlock its mystery.
The Bewah Man is expected to return “home” by the year’s end.
Museum director Yusof Abdullah said local experts and archaeologists were busy constructing the appropriate casing for the special remains.
“Research on the remains is coming to an end. Thus, it is only right for the remains to be returned to Gua Bewah.
“We will ensure that the remains are undisturbed and well-preserved,” he said yesterday.
On unlocking the mystery of the gender of the Bewah Man, Yusof said a team of archaeologists recently discovered dental remains at the dig site in Gua Bewah.
“We believe the new discovery is that of the Bewah Man. However, we will run more tests.
“We hope it will shed some light into the gender of the oldest skeleton in the country,” he said.
He added that all skeletal remains discovered at the site had been sent to experts in the United States for assistance.
“We require help from overseas in order to discover the gender of the skeletal remains.
“We are still awaiting the results of the tests,” he said.
Yusof said local archaeologists are hard at work at the dig site in order to uncover more prehistoric treasures.
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International trade in stalactites

Although this story is not related to Malaysia, I have filed it here for reference. This in not the first time that the Philippines has acted on stolen stal.

This piece is from ABS -CBN News.
900 bags of stalactites, stalagmites seized in Manila
abs-cbnNEWS.com
5 Sept 2011
MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Customs on Monday said it has seized 900 bags of illegally harvested stalactites and stalagmites in Manila bound for the US.
The cave formations, mainly composed of limestone, were seized at the Manila International Container Port (MICP). The items had no permit.
Customs said the seized items were signed under Major Stone International Enterprise.
Documents showed the cave formations, which usually take hundreds of years to form, were bound for Oakland, California.
The owners of the stalagmites and stalactites are facing charges of violating Republic Act 9072 or the "National Caves and Cave Resources Management and Protection Act." – With a report from Noel Alamar, dzMM

and

NBI arrests 6 for selling stalactites
abs-cbnNEWS.com 19 Aug 2011
MANILA, Philippines - Six people are facing possible jail sentences of 2 to 6 years for selling stalactites and stalagmites taken from Canlao Cave in Tuguegarao.
Elements of the National Bureau of Investigation Counter-Intelligence and Environment and Wildlife Protection and Investigation Division arrested Andres Concha, Harry Santiago, Normita Mabagos, and 3 others for selling the cave formations.
Stalactites are speleothems or natural mineral formations found on the ceilings of caves, while stalagmites are formations found on cave floors.
Republic Act 9072 or the National Caves and Cave Resources Management and Protection Act prohibits the gathering and selling of speleothems because it takes up to a hundred years for them to be formed.
Dave Segunial, chief of the NBI Counter-Intelligence Division, said his unit received a tip that a group was selling stalactites and stalagmites for up to P200,000 each.
"They are from the province of Cagayan and according to our source, manggagaling material sa Tuguegarao. The transaction was for P300,000 worth," he said.
Segunial said NBI operatives found the stalactites and stalagmites inside a van used by the suspects. The cave formations were wrapped in newspapers, placed in sacks and covered with pillows and stuffed toys.
The suspects said they did not know it was illegal to harvest stalactites and stalagmites. Concha said Mabagos bought the cave formations for P10,000 each.

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The Saturday Star Lifestyle section did a 2 part series on the country’s best outdoor destinations and trails based on an informal poll by adventure buffs and outdoor operators. This piece appeared on Oct 8 2011.

Best caving destination

Dubbed the “most spectacular caves on earth” by international cave experts, Gunung Mulu National Park is unsurprisingly picked as the best caving destination by speleologist and freelance journalist Liz Price.

Kuala Lumpur-based Price has been caving in South-East Asia for more than 20 years.

One of the spectacular caves at Mulu National Park that draws visitors from all over the world.

With one of the longest networks of caves in the world, the Unesco World Heritage site is bestowed with a long list of superlatives. It houses the world’s largest underground chamber – apparently, you can squeeze in 40 Boeing 747 airplanes in the Sarawak Chamber.

The world’s biggest cave passage, the Deer Cave can fit cathedrals the size of Saint Paul’s in London and is where you can watch millions of bats swarming out at dusk. Then there’s Clearwater Cave, the longest cave in South-East Asia.

“Many caves have spectacular formations and are home to a wide variety of cave fauna,” says Price.

The adventurous can opt for adventure caving where you crawl, climb, scramble or squeeze through narrow cave passages while marvelling at the spectacular formations and creatures.

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Unfortunately the info about Deer Cave being the world's biggest passage is no longer corrrect as Son Doong Cave in Vietnam now has this record.

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Langkawi Geopark

The Star 9 Oct reported that :

Unesco extends Langkawi status as geopark

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) has given its approval to extend Langkawi's status as a geopark, until 2015.
Langkawi Development Authority (Lada) public relations officer Ramizi Hasan said the approval followed, after a review by two Unesco officers in July.
He said the Langkawi Geopark was declared by the Unesco Global Geopark Network as the 52nd geopark on June 1, 2007.
"Many achievements have been recorded, including an increase in tourist arrivals since the declaration of the Langkawi geopark.
"We appreciate Unesco for the approval," he told Bernama here Sunday.

Sarawak geopark

Sarawak is also hoping to have a geopark, see 2010 report. This piece is from Borneo Post, 23 Oct 2011 -

Unesco Geopark to revive state’s tourism industry

KUCHING: A Unesco Geopark in the state is in the works in an effort to propel the state back on top as the country’s top tourism destination.
In view of the of the poor air connectivity which plagued the state’s tourism industry this year, Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit said his ministry is currently working on various strategies to revive the state’s tourism industry.
He said the Geopark under Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) would be along Jalan Borneo Heights, Bau and Santubong.
“The Department of Mineral and Geoscience here is currently working on the dossier which will be submitted to Unesco for consideration.
“It’s halfway done and we can expect to submit it in the middle of next year so that Unesco can come to assess the areas,” he said.
Dawos mentioned if the application is approved, the state would be home to the second Geopark in Malaysia after the one in Langkawi and the third in South East Asia after the Dong Van Rock Highland Geopark in Vietnam.
According to Unesco’s website, a Geopark is a “territory encompassing one or more sites of scientific importance, not only for geological reasons but also by virtue of its archeological, ecological or cultural value”.
The deputy minister however added that the Geopark alone is not enough to increase tourist arrivals into the state.
“It’s (tourist arrival) not my problem, but it is a disappointment not only for Kuching but the whole of Sarawak.
“We don’t have direct flights from certain destinations outside Malaysia where we want these people to come,” he said.
Dawos explained that in order for the state to be a prime tourist destination such as Sabah and Langkawi, there must be direct international flights into the state.
“Sabah is now number one and Langkawi is number two because they have direct flights from international destinations. I would love to see Kuching have the same opportunity so that we can also be a tourist hub like Kota Kinabalu,” he said.

Surprisingly this earlier report in the Borneo Post 23 May 2011 did not mention the Sarawak River delta that includes Bau. Instead it suggested Mulu as a possible site. "In the case of Sarawak, Professor Ross said among the possible sites for Geoparks are the area around the Bako National Park and the Mulu National Park.....The Mulu National Park is Sarawak’s largest national park, with Mount Mulu rising over a mass of sandstone, 2,376 metres above sea level. Considering Mulu’s spectacular scenery and its biological significance, it was not surprising that Mulu was successfully listed as a World Heritage site in November 2000."

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In view of Visit Perak Year 2012, the State started to think about making preparations. This included clean ups of several areas.

Sam Poh Tong in need of clean up

This article on Sam Poh Tong was in Star on 27 Oct 2011.

FIRST impression counts, and the famous Sam Poh Tong Cave Temple committee is duly and understandably worried ahead of Visit Perak Year 2012.
The poorly maintained surroundings near its entrance is covered by undergrowth and frequent flooding in the area has put off many visitors.
Yik Xin Kung temple secretary Chang Seow Leong said the situation was further compounded by stray dogs that roamed the area.
“I hope MCA can convey this to the local authority,” Chang said during a dialogue chaired by party president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek in Ipoh recently.
In an immediate response, Dr Chua said state executive councillor Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon, who was also present at the dialogue, would follow up on the matter.

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Tourism site needs clearer signs to attract visitors

STAR Metro Perak, November 1, 2011.

THE fading signboard bearing the name of the popular Gua Tempurung in Jalan Ipoh-Gopeng will be re-placed, as part of preparations leading up to Visit Perak Year 2012 (VPY 2012).
Perak Tourism Committee chairman Datuk Hamidah Osman said the state government had given the Kampar Municipal Council (MPKpr) RM30,000 to put up a new signboard and to work on beautifying several tourist spots in the vicinity.
“The council is to put up bunting and intensify efforts to beautify certain areas to make the place more welcoming to visitors.
“The two black pillars along the road leading to Gua Tempurung should be replaced or at least made to look brighter,” she said, suggesting that MPKpr used designs depicting the cave.
“It should be a design that will build up one’s excitement as they make their way to the cave,” she added.
The state government, Hamidah said, would allocate another RM10,000 to refurbish the cafeteria at Gua Tempurung to make it more presentable.
“The cafeteria will be repainted while the chairs and tables there will be replaced with new ones,” she said.


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The Star on 3 Nov 2011 did 4 short pieces on the export of limestone.

Malaysia losing billions in revenue from exports of limestone

Billions of ringgit are lost because limestone is allowed to be exported in its raw form.
Other countries in South-East Asia have banned the export of unprocessed limestone.
The blocks of raw limestone are shipped out at RM60 a tonne because minerals are allowed to be sold overseas without imposing export duties.
Once the raw limestone reaches its destinations, it is processed and value- added, turning it into products that can fetch as high as RM390 a tonne.

Foreign firms buy limestone cheaply for resale at a higher price

Billions of ringgit is flowing out as Malaysia continues to allow unprocessed limestone to be exported.
The raw limestone is sold for only RM60 a tonne compared to processed and value-added limestone that can fetch around RM390 a tonne.
We are the only country in South-East Asia shipping out the precious mineral, resulting in swift depletion of resources and denying the flourishing of downstream activities.
StarProbe findings revealed that companies with foreign interest were the big players in the country's limestone export business and some of them also owned limestone processing factories in the importing countries.

Govt may give perks to set up processing plants

The Government is looking into incentives to encourage the setting up of limestone processing plants.
The Minerals and Geoscience Department said in a statement to the The Star that local processing plants could create jobs and facilitate technology transfer.
The statement added that the Government allowed the export of limestone and no duty was imposed on the export of all minerals.
It stated that foreign companies were allowed to own and invest in the mineral industry as they provided jobs to locals.

International demand for high-grade limestone

International demand for high-grade limestone has resulted in the steady rise of exports from Malaysia.
National Statistics Department figures show that exports had been increasing for the past 10 years.
The statistics showed 440,712 tonnes were exported in 2001. In 2006, it was 563,769 tonnes, before jumping to 607,411 tonnes in 2009.
Last year, however, saw a drop with 488,961 tonnes exported.

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Ban rampant limestone quarrying, says geologist

STAR November 4, 2011

A geologist has urged the Government to stop companies from extracting limestones from the hills.
Prof Datuk Dr Ibrahim Komoo who is University Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) vice-chancellor for research and innovation said: “I fear the limestone hills will disappear soon if the ongoing extracting activities is allowed to continue.
“The Geological Environment Group which I represent has been asking the Government to ban such extractions so as to protect the natural heritage,” he said.
Prof Ibrahim said limestones were not available in all countries and we should be very fortunate to have them.
It is learnt that due to its industrial demand, the Government had leased out the limestone hills for a period of time to private companies.
However, he said, there were not too many limestones hills left in the country as most of it has been depleted due to the rampant quarrying activities.
“It is important that the Government put an end to the quarrying activities at limestone hills.
“Studies show that only 5% of the limestones are left on the surface while 95% of the resources are available about 20m below the ground,” he added.

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Raw limestone cannot be exported, says minerals dept

The Star 6 Nov 2011 wrote: Raw limestone is not allowed to be exported out of the country, said the Department of Minerals and Geoscience Malaysia.
Malaysia had been exporting limestones in the form of flux or ground calcium carbonate (GCC), a processed limestone product for industrial feed material for the manufacture of various products such as lime, cement and paper filler, the department said in a statement.
“In 2009, Malaysia exported 607,411 tonnes of limestone flux valued at RM81,998,000 and the amount increased to 630,067 tonnes with a value of RM85,848,766 last year,” the statement said.
Industry experts have questioned how the raw materials could leave the country in the form of stones.
An industry expert Datuk Seri S.V. Ramakrishanan said he was shocked over the statement that raw limestone was not allowed to be exported.
“It does not make sense as limestone is openly stockpiled at the Lumut port and shipped out to various countries in its raw form,” claimed Ramakrishanan, who has been in the business for two decades and had helped set up several limestone processing plants.
Another expert Abdul Halim Jali, who has 21 years experience in the industry, also claimed that the export of raw limestone was not new.
“It is time the Government realises that they have been allowing the precious minerals to be easily removed. Action should be taken to control the situation,” he said.
On Nov 2, The Star reported that Malaysia allowed the export of raw limestone, leading to a loss of billions of ringgit.

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There is often rivalry between the states in Malaysia, with them claiming the oldest something over other states. So I wonder if this is also a case of rivalry, where Kedah is claiming that the Bujang Valley civilisation is older than Perak Man. Bujang Valley is dated as belonging to the first centry; Perak Man is dated at around 11,000 years old - so there seems to be no question as to which is older!!

Site of ancient civilisation at Sungai Batu to have exhibition centre

Bernama, December 05, 2011

Sungai Batu, the seat of a first century civilisation, will have an exhibition centre recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation( UNESCO).
In connection with this, Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Utama Dr Rais Yatim said UNESCO would be invited to give a new reevaluation on the civilisation.
He said, artifacts from Sungai Batu, in Lembah Bujang, Merbok which had undergone radiocarbon dating and confirmed as being from the first century or dated 101, had strengthened resolve to developed the area.
"This is a fact of archeological history that the first civilisation in the Bujang Valley is older than the Perak man found in Lenggong and is recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage.
"I have twice tabled the report on the civilisation to the cabinet because I don't want the findings to be viewed lightly," he said after opening the Sword of Prophet Muhammad S.A.W., Treasures of Islamic Civilisation and the Historical Collection of Seni Silat Pusaka Gayong Exhibition at the Naza Factory's Dewan Sri Zaleha here, Monday.
According to Rais the Heritage and Arts Department had paid RM13 million to purchase a 30-hectare land in Sungai Batu to build a gallery and would invite investments in Lembah Bujang.
He also said the department received many contributions including from the Albukhary Foundation to build the gallery next year to house artifacts from the civilisation.
The ministry would also ask international experts to do presentations and analysis of the civilisation while Universiti Sains Malaysia continued its studies at Sungai Batu, he said.
Rais hoped the first century Langkasukan culture found at Sungai Batu would become the focus of attention following the development projects to be implemented.
On the exhibition, he asked Malays to learn the history of Islamic civilisation with the value of the Malay culture as axis and not to be rash in their endeavour to become a bigger race.
"The Malay race cannot be lackadaisical but must learn from the expansion of Islam to mould a firm personality," he said.
Rais praised the effort of Seni Silat Gayong exponents who propagated the Malay art as a noble effort, promising aid to them.
The entrance fee for the exhibition is RM10 for adults and RM5 for children. The exhibition ends on Dec 19.

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Perak Geological Museum

The Geological Museum in Ipoh, Perak was established in 1957. Under the 9th Malaysia Plan, it was extensively renovated and upgraded to increase the exhibition space and collection of exhibits in the Museum. The Star reported on this in Nov 2011.

This piece is taken from the
Museums wesite 8 Dec 2011.

First Geological Museum Perak

The importance of museums is a factor in developing the tourism sector and information for the people in this country, especially in Perak.
This is because the contribution of museums is important in spreading the knowledge of the treasures of pre-history and is now very useful to a new generation.
Thus, the Minerals and Geoscience Department Malaysia (JMG) took the initiative to create a mining history museum here.
The new museum building upgrade involves an allocation of RM1.3 million, to be the only museum that serves as a center for education and learning of geology and geosciences in the country.
The museum displays a variety of minerals and mineral-related activities and history.
Among the interesting collection of specimens on display are a variety of fossils, rocks, minerals and precious stones which are mostly found in the country over the years.
Also on display a collection of sample casserite (tin) found in the palung mines of tin mining in the country.
Geological input and contributions to major infrastructure development, improvement and promotion of socio-economic status and promoting geotourism also be displayed to visitors.
JMG Director General, Datuk Yunus Abdul Razak said the museum was upgraded in two phases since it was established in 1957.
According to him, it will be upgraded in the Ninth Malaysia Plan (RMK-9) and is aimed at increasing knowledge of the people and boost tourism activities, particularly in the state.
He said the first phase of renovation involved an allocation of RM485, 000 for development in 2007 and for the next two years, while the second phase involving RM723, 000 in 2010 to the present.
"The second and final phase will involve working on the interior design to create a museum exhibit space consistent with the concept of mining history of information technology development of minerals and geology," he said at the opening of the Museum of Geology JMG Complex here recently.
The opening of the museum is done by the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas.
Yunus said, opening the museum on par with other museums in Malaysia, to be able to create a love for knowledge.
He said the museum will also serve as a research center that is able to combine the heritage and technology through a mechanism that will bring about social change and community development in the state.
He said the ministry plans to establish the post of curator to facilitate visitors and has applied to the Public Service Department (PSD) for approval.
He said the facilities available at the museum is free to the public, but it only operates from Monday to Friday because it is closed on Saturdays and Sundays and public holidays.