The Malaysian government announced a three-month moratorium on bauxite mining today. The moratorium, which is to begin a week from Friday, comes after weeks of concerns about the environmental and health impact of the country’s lightly-regulated, booming bauxite industry.
“Beginning 15 January, everything will come to a standstill,” said Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, Malaysia’s natural resources and environment minister, at a news conference.
“We are not stopping bauxite mining activities permanently, there is no order from Cabinet to do so. It’s just that we now control mining activities according to the port’s capacity,” he told reporters at Istana Hotel.
“Starting Jan 15, everything will stand still in Kuantan. No movement at all because we want the 11 stockpile holders to do mitigation in each stockpile and there must be washing bays. Likewise near the port, all stockpiles must be cleared because we do not want any dumping there that will flow into the sea. All the stockpiles will be moved to a place called the central stockpile. Only one stockpile center will be built with drainage and filtration systems and washing bay,” Wan Junaidi told a special press conference on Pahang bauxite operations.
Wan Junaidi said the moratorium period would be extended if the country’s bauxite industry did not implement all the prescribed steps.
“During the moratorium period, the government will carry out integrated enforcement to ensure compliance. It will involve federal and state agencies,” he said.
“As a proactive measure, the Department of Environment has set up six ad-hoc stations to monitor the water quality in the area affected by bauxite mining in the Riau, Mabok and Pinang rivers which showed that the quality was at class III of the National Water Quality Standard (NWQS), not yet reaching the dangerous level.
“The results of the latest sampling made on Dec 30 will only be known in three weeks,” said Wan Junaidi.