Mixed reactions over extension of bauxite mining moratorium

A fishing boat is seen at the estuary of Sungai Balok in Kuantan, Pahang. The river has turned red, believed due to bauxite pollution. Picture taken December 3, 2015. — Bernama pic
A fishing boat is seen at the estuary of Sungai Balok in Kuantan, Pahang. The river has turned red, believed due to bauxite pollution. Picture taken December 3, 2015. — Bernama pic

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KUANTAN, April 9 ― The federal government's decision to extend the moratorium on bauxite mining by three more months is viewed as a move in the right direction for the people's wellbeing.

Pahang Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob welcomed the decision and thanked the federal government for taking the move.

“It is the best decision for the wellbeing of the people who must always come first,” he said in a text message to the media here this evening.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar today announced the three-month moratarium on bauxite mining in Kuantan which was supposed to end on April 15, would be extended by three more months.

The extension was to enable, among others, the existing bauxite stockpile of almost four million tonnes to be cleared or exported.

Stop Bauxite Mining Movement chairman Ali Akbar Othman said the decision was indeed, proper as the state government itself was seen still unprepared, including in terms of providing a proper infrastructure to allow mining to continue.

“Previously, we were promised a special bauxite central collection centre and a special 15km road to transport the mineral to the port but so far, none of the facilities have yet to be provided.

“Similarly, on the standard operating procedures (SOP) on bauxite mining activities, the ministry should announce it to enable us to report to the authorities, in the event of any breach of the directive by miners or transport operators,” he said.

As such, he hoped the government would make full use of the moratorium period to formulate an effective SOP and repair damaged roads before mining resumed.

Protection of Natural Heritage of Malaysia president Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil described the moratorium extension as a blessing for the people of Kuantan, who were now no longer inhaling the red bauxite dust.

“I salute the government and Wan Junaidi particularly, for taking into account the interests of the residents of Kuantan, who were previously affected by the bauxite mining activities,” she said.

Echoing a different opinion, Pahang Iron Ore Operators Association president Datuk Seri Tengku Zulkifli Tengku Ahmad called on the government to reconsider the decision to extend the moratorium period.

“It is understood that only three per cent of bauxite stockpile is still available at the storage area in Kuantan Port and at the same time, works to improve infrastructure, including the building of washing bay are actively being carried out there.

“All the works are expected to be completed within two months. If it can be completed in a shorter period, why should this (moratorium) period be extended?

We will appeal to the government on this issue because the longer this period is imposed, more people will lose their source of income,” he said.

Bukit Goh Bauxite Coordinating Committee chairman Datuk Dr Abdul Wahid Manap wants the government to use the period to find the best solution to the bauxite issue to avoid the moratorium to be extended for the third time.

He hoped the government, especially Felda (The Federal Land Development Authority) would help ease the burden of the 248 settlers who lost their livelihood as a result of the moratorium implementation. ― Bernama

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