Malaysia may suspend bauxite mining

Malaysia may suspend bauxite mining

Trucks transporting soil containing bauxite exit a mining site in Bukit Goh in Pahang state of Malaysia. A local farmer's palm plantation has been razed and bulldozers are tearing into its red soil, releasing potentially hazardous dust into the environment. (AFP Photo)
Trucks transporting soil containing bauxite exit a mining site in Bukit Goh in Pahang state of Malaysia. A local farmer's palm plantation has been razed and bulldozers are tearing into its red soil, releasing potentially hazardous dust into the environment. (AFP Photo)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia is pushing to suspend bauxite mining due to concerns about its impact on the environment, a cabinet source said on Saturday, threatening to interrupt supplies of the aluminium-making material to China.

The largely unregulated industry has grown rapidly in the last two years to meet Chinese demand. Bauxite mining was blamed for turning the waters red on a stretch of coastline and surrounding rivers in eastern peninsula Malaysia after two days of heavy rain earlier this week.

The cabinet wants to temporarily halt bauxite mining until regulations, licensing and environmental protection can be put in place, the source told Reuters on Saturday.

"The idea is to suspend it for a time until all this is sorted out, but ultimately the prerogative for licensing lies with the state," the source told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has asked the resource minister to resolve the issues with the government of Malaysia's third-largest state and key bauxite producer Pahang, the source said.

Waters and seas near Pahang's state capital Kuantan ran red earlier this week as downpours brought an increase in run-off from the ochre-red earth at the mines and the stockpiles, stoking environmental concerns.

The state official in charge of the environment Mohd Soffi Abd Razak, however, said the pollution was caused by illegal mine operators and not by mines run by companies approved by the state government, according to local media reports.

"We believe the illegal miners are causing the waters to be murky," the Malay Mail newspaper quoted the official as saying.

Bauxite mines have sprung up in Malaysia since late 2014, notably in Kuantan, which faces the South China Sea. The mines have been shipping increasing amounts of the raw material to China, filling in a gap after Indonesia banned bauxite exports in early 2014, forcing the world's top aluminium producer, China, to seek supplies elsewhere.

In the first 11 months of 2015, Malaysia exported 20 million tonnes of bauxite to China, up nearly 700% from the previous year. In 2013, it shipped just 162,000 tonnes.

But the frantic pace of mining in Kuantan has brought in its wake a growing clamour of voices complaining of contamination of water sources and the destruction of the environment.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said earlier that the central government had had come up with many new regulations and guidelines for the industry, but needed the consent of the state government to impose them.



Do you like the content of this article?
COMMENT (3)

Man found dead in Nan river

PHITSANULOK: The body of a man, who was reported missing three days previously, was found dead in the Nan river near Wat Chan Tawan-ok temple in Muang district on Monday afternoon.

10:15

5 killed, 12 injured in tour bus fire

KHON KAEN: Five passengers died and 12 others seriously injured after a Bangkok-bound double-decker bus they were travelling in went up in flames in Ban Haet district of this northeastern province in the small hours on Tuesday, police said.

09:39

Govt stockpiles drugs as private jabs loom

Medicine for treating Covid-19 is being stockpiled with more being bought amid the third outbreak which has infected more than 4,000 people, said the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO).

08:00