Malaysia halts bauxite mining in Pahang for 3 months

Bauxite mining activities have been suspended in the Malaysian state of Pahang after complaints over pollution and concern for public health.
Sumisha Naidu, Malaysia Correspondent, Channel NewsAsia 15 Jan 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: After widespread concern for public health and the environment, bauxite mining activities in Malaysia's Pahang state has come to a halt for three-months as of Friday (Jan 15).

On Jan 6, Malaysia's Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Wan Jaafar and Pahang Chief Minister Adnan Yaakob announced a moratorium on all mining activities for the world's main source of aluminium after residents complained of dust pollution and rivers and seas running red.

The three months will be used to clear the eleven existing stockpiles through export, shifting whatever remains to a central stockpile with proper drainage, washing bays and filtration.

"Hopefully after the moratorium period we can come up with a very comprehensive plan which can solve this problem permanently to the satisfaction of all people, of all quarters," said Mr Adnan.

The Minister has warned that those who fail to comply with the moratorium will be charged under the Minerals Development Act 1994.

Authorities are also cracking down on corruption in an industry where rampant and illegal mining is a problem. At least 10 officials from the Pahang Land and Mines Department have been remanded to facilitate investigations. Two have been charged for graft related to illegal mining.

Bauxite mining took off in Pahang after Indonesia banned the export of all mineral ore in 2014 to encourage domestic processing. According to Reuters, Malaysia accounted for over 40 percent of China's 49 million tonnes of bauxite imports across January to November 2015.

The mining boom has left layers of red dust coating roads to cars around Pahang's capital, Kuantan. Locals in the town along Peninsular Malaysia's east coast blame bauxite mining for turning parts of the sea and rivers red as well.

Health officials have warned of potential long term health risks, deterring residents from going near the water or buying seafood.

"I don't let my children go to the river, play in the river, I'm scared," one mother of four living near Sungai Balok told Channel NewsAsia.

- CNA/rw

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