Malaysia bans bauxite mining for three months amid pollution fears

07 Jan 2016 / 00:13 H.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Cabinet today ordered all bauxite mining operations in Pahang to be suspended for three months beginning Jan 15.
Natural Resource and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the suspension is part of a moratorium following meetings with the Cabinet, which will require all stockpiles to be cleared first before any future mining can take place.
He explained that the three-month moratorium period will also be broken down into three main stages, the first of which will require Kuantan Port to clear all of its stockpile within the first month by exporting them.
"In the second month, the bauxite mining operators need to start clearing the other 11 stockpiles outside the port.
"And in the third month, they will need to have the stockpile areas fixed with all the necessary mitigating systems, including a proper drainage system, filtration and washing bays for lorries," he told a press conference at Hotel Istana, here today.
Earlier reports said that the environmental damage as a result of the mining may be so severe that the ecosystem may take years to recover, or never do so.
Residents had expressed concern that metals and minerals from the mining process could end up in rivers, posing serious risks to the environment and also the people.
It was reported on Jan 3 that the government was pushing to suspend bauxite mining due to the concerns about its impact on the environment, until regulations, licensing and environmental protection are put in place.
"If the industry fails to implement all these requirements within the three months, we will extend the moratorium period," added Wan Junaidi.
Within the three months, a new integrated, centralised stockpile facility will also be identified, compared to the present 11, to limit the movement of lorries in and out of the area.
"By doing this, we can also ensure that only legal operators can enter the stockpile area, and no more illegal operators," he said.
Wan Junaidi said following the moratorium period, a new comprehensive plan with various terms and condition will be enforced by the federal and state government for bauxite mining.
Among the terms, he said, is to issue approved permits (APs) for export of bauxite to legal operators who complied with the moratorium and only according to the port capacity.
Wan Junaidi said on average, the port can only handle 26 million tonnes of bauxite for export a year.
"This would ensure that all the stockpiles could be cleared, meaning also fewer lorries," he said.
The government will also work with the relevant authorities, including the police, armed forces, Road Transport Department (JPJ) and Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD), to assist in enforcing the mining operation and transportation of bauxite.
Meanwhile, Pahang Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob advised residents to remain calm while action is being taken.
Bauxite mines have been springing up in Malaysia since late 2014, notably in Kuantan, to meet increasing demand, especially after Indonesia banned bauxite exports in early 2014.
Bauxite exports in Kuantan contributed RM46.7 million to the state government through royalty collection in 2015, a marked increase as compared to RM2.4 million the previous year.

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