Although the Malaysian government enacted a ban on bauxite mining two weeks into the year, according to settlers in Felda Bukit Kuantan the moratorium has done little, if anything, to put the brakes on the abusive mining practices of irresponsible miners in the area.
“At first, I thought the lorries are clearing the remaining stockpiles in the oil palm plantation,” said a settler to a reporter for the New Straits Times. “But when they continued transporting the bauxite few months after the moratorium was imposed, I realised that the mining activities are still being carried out.”
The settler went on to say that reports filed with authorities were not acted upon. He said also that miners have been utilizing back roads to transport the illicit bauxite.
“It clearly shows that they are breaching the moratorium and stern action must be taken against them,” he said.
Another settler, himself a second-generation settler in his forties, assigned blame to authorities who have been lax (at best) in their enforcement of the ongoing moratorium. According to him, and despite an announcement by Natural Resources and Environment Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Azizan Ahmad that law enforcement would be assigned at appropriate locations to ensure enforcement of the moratorium, significant numbers of law enforcement turned out only through mid-July before tailing off.
“Their presence prompted the miners to slow down their activities but now, the enforcement officers can hardly be seen,” he said.
Another settler interviewed by the newspaper overcame his initial reticence to speak on the subject and charged the government with finding a solution to the problem of illegal and damaging bauxite mining practices.
“I think the prolonged moratorium had left miners with no choice but to do it (bauxite-mining) secretly,” she said.
As for his part, Wan Junaidi indicated that he has directed elements of the national government to cooperate with local authorities to investigate the continuing claims of illegal mining.
“I hope to receive the full report on the issue by next week,” he said.