Clean water supply at risk as Covid-19 SOPs cause limestone supply chain disruption

A drop of water is seen dropping from a tap in Shah Alam March 30, 2021. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
A drop of water is seen dropping from a tap in Shah Alam March 30, 2021. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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KUALA LUMPUR, July 12 — The Chemical Industries Council of Malaysia (CICM) today called on the government to let limestone quarries resume operations immediately as supply disruption could put clean water supply at risk.

Supply of raw materials for the lime industry is currently allowed but only from existing stockpiles from the quarry that are fast depleting, the group said. 

It warned that the industry is already contemplating shutting down operations since raw materials will not be available soon. 

“The CICM has previously highlighted that limestone quarries should be allowed to fully operate immediately so that they can continue to produce materials such as calcium hydroxide and calcium oxide,” the group said in a statement.

The lime industry supplies raw materials crucial for the production of Malaysia’s clean drinking water and waste water treatment services.

The general SOPs for Phases One and Two of the National Recovery Plan (NRP) have been published by the National Security Council (NSC) recently, with the nod being given to quarry activities.

But CICM said the SOPs have been subjected to specific protocols for the Mining and Quarrying Sectors issued by the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (KeTSA). 

The revised SOPs for Mining and Quarrying Sectors were only released on July 9, 2021. The revision was, however, specific for Phase Two of the NRP only, according to the group.

This means limestone quarries for states are effectively still under Phase One of the NRP and have yet to re-start their operations.

The CICM said producers will take three to four weeks to restart after being shut down, and will produce large amounts of waste, incur extra costs and could potentially cause the lime industry and its upstream and downstream supply chain to be stood down.

The disruption could put many workers out of work, the group warned. 

“CICM does not wish to witness a major supply chain disruption which puts supply of clean drinking water to the public, in particular, at risk and causes the disruption of operations of essential industries and services,” it said.

Several other industries have given similar warnings as they push for a reopening of key economic sectors.

The CICM urged for practical SOPs to be put in place to ensure operations can be safely restarted.

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