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Date [ 2016-01-28, 07:09 ]

Finally restriction orders amidst health and pollution fears.


(Kuala Lumpur =Koreanpress) Liew Lai Keen = Demand for bauxite, used mainly in aluminum production, has soared in recent months, with heavy demand coming in from China. Finally, Malaysia announced on January 13, 2016, a three-month ban on bauxite mining in Pahang. Increasing pollution hazards finally made the Government to act.

Previously, Indonesia was the top producer in this region. It banned mineral ore exports in January 2014 to encourage the domestic processing of metals.It left major consumers like China in the lurch and their search for new sources. This led to bauxite mining taking off in Malaysia which until then had been an insignificant producer of bauxite. There was a very sharp rise in mining and more so, as locals got into the game, most of them doing it illegally.

"Everything will come to a complete stop on January 15," Environment Minister Wan JunaidiTuanku Jaafar announced at a press conference, with priority being given to clear current stockpiles within the next three months. Also new measures are being put in place, such as a better drainage system at Kuantan Port to prevent bauxite contamination which has turned the sea red.If it is not able to manage the situation in three months, then we will extend the moratorium," the Minister said.

The pollution threat is very real for no effort has been made to control the red dust that swirls around the mining pits. The immediate result is having residents stop swimming in the sea as it has turned a brownish red. Complaints of a rise in respiratory problems and skin rashes became more common. Fears arose of heavy metals entering the water supply or the food chain.

It had Pahang's Chief Minister, Adnan Yaakob telling residents to stay calm."We are doing everything to assist them," he told the press conference. “We have a grand plan to overcome problems permanently and get better control of illegal miners. We must stop the destruction of Mother Nature. There would be a drop in revenue during the ban,but the moratorium would help push up prices later on.”

Kuantan's opposition member of Parliament, FuziahSalleh hailed the temporary ban. She reminded that, "The 700,000 people living in Kuantan are exposed to pollution. The rivers, a source of drinking water are polluted, the air is filled with red dust and fish in the rivers have died."

It will be interesting to see how the state government gains some measure of control over the bauxite mining problems, especially with the illegals. With bauxite now selling at USD45 per tonne, the temptation is just too great. Malaysia’s bauxite output more than quadrupled year-on-year in 2014 to nearly 963,000 tonnes, according to government statistics.

abc@koreanpress.net

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