February 23, 2017

Mining Operators ‘might be breaking’ Bauxite Ban

Mining Operators ‘might be breaking’ Bauxite Ban

This excavator at a bauxite mine in Pahang has raised suspicions of illegal mining in violation of a moratorium. Photo Credit: GERAM

A ban on all bauxite mining remains in place in Pahang, but that may not have stopped some operators from trying to resume their mining activities clandestinely.

Villagers have drawn that conclusion after discovering two excavators in the village of Kampung Jeram. The local contractor reportedly said he had obtained a permit to clear a stockpile of the aluminum ore from a local mine atop a hill. A subsequent check by villagers, however, “revealed several new digging sites,” said Ali Akbar Othman, chairman of The People’s Movement to Stop Bauxite Pollution (GERAM).

The grassroots civil society group has played a vital role in documenting the extensive pollution that unregulated bauxite mining inflicted on Pahang’s environment in 2015. “We also asked the contractor to show us the letter and permit which he claimed he had obtained but he said the documents are with the landowner,” Ali Akbar elucidated.

Not surprisingly, local villagers are concerned that mining activities might resume under the cover of cleaning up existing stockpiles. “The excavators passed by my house on Monday and when I demanded [to see] a permit, they could not provide me with any proof. I’m not sure what the mining operators are up to,” an elderly villager told The New Straits Times.

Villagers in Kuantan do some cleaning-up at the site of a bauxite mine. Photo Credit: GERAM

“We suffered for four years and they (miners) have already damaged our land, roads and farms,” he added. “The moratorium gave residents some peace and allowed us to breathe fresh air, but now the return of mining works is going to give us a nightmare.”

A representative of the company has denied it was resuming mining activities, thereby breaking the moratorium, which was put in place by the country’s federal government in January last year. “Our company has been granted permission to clear the stockpiles on three plots of land but we need to adhere to the standard operating procedures, which include preparing the washing bay, operate only licensed lorries and royalty payment,” he said. “Before lorries can enter the site, we need to clear a road. That is why we brought the excavators.”

Good to know. Let’s hope it’s indeed existing stockpiles that the company is seeking to clear and is not trying to add to that stockpile by unearthing yet more aluminum ore.

Sadly, some illegal bauxite mining has likely been taking place in Pahang. “I’m very confident that illegal mining operation had taken place because during the aerial observation on all mines, we can still see a lot of bauxite stockpiles despite not seeing any moving lorries,” Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said recently. “This is weird because since the implementation of the moratorium period, we have exported 5.2 tonnes of bauxite and even before that we have 5 million tonnes of stockpiles too.”

In other words, some mining companies may surreptitiously conducting mining activities while pretending to try and clean up old stockpiles in violation of the mining ban.


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