Minister says monitoring wellbeing of residents near bauxite mining area in Kuantan

Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad addresses reporters during a press conference in Putrajaya February 20, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad addresses reporters during a press conference in Putrajaya February 20, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 20 — The Health Ministry has been constantly monitoring the health condition of residents who live around the bauxite mining area near Kuantan, Pahang, said its minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad.

He said that the monitoring was carried out by obtaining regular health reports from various health and medical facilities in the area. 

“We monitor through case statistics such as respiratory infections in clinics, for example, whether there has been a significant increase in the problem. We also monitor the quality of fresh water and fruits for traces of heavy metals in them,” he told a media conference at the ministry here today.

“We want to ensure that the people do not suffer as a result of bauxite mining activity,” he said, adding that the matter was also brought up at the Cabinet meeting today.

On Feb 18, Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar, announced that the moratorium on bauxite mining and export would not be extended.

As a result, all activities on the mining and export of the mineral can resume. There will be new standard operating procedures (SOP) and tighter law enforcement. 

Meanwhile, Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh, said that she had her reservations on the matter.

Fuziah, who is also Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, said the new SOP, only allowed bauxite that had been processed,  for export.

“Bauxite contains heavy metals and when processed, the water will enter the nearby rivers,” she said adding that it could cause health implications to locals.

She also asked the  government to immediately showcase the new SOPs for bauxite mining before the moratorium expires on March 31.

Fuziah also voiced her concerns over the significant weaknesses especially in the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report at the mining sites because only one report was available for 3,642 hectares of mining area in the state.

She said an EIA report was required for each mining site as each one was different with housing, water catchment and forest areas. — Bernama