The bauxite mining moratorium enacted by the Malaysian government fifteen days into this year has been extended yet again.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar announced yesterday that the ban, whose latest extension was to expire on the 31st, has been extended through the first three months of 2017. The reasoning for this extension is the same for all the previous ones – bauxite ore stockpiles still remain to be cleared.
Wan Junaidi indicated at a press conference on the subject that the continued existence of bauxite stockpiles makes it apparent to him that mining in contravention of the law is occurring.
“There’s an indication that there is illegal mining going on, otherwise there would be no heap (of bauxite),” he told local media when announcing the ban.
He went on to say that 2.95 million metric tons of the stockpiles remain. Malaysia exported 5.3 million metric tons of bauxite over the course of the ban, he went on.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Wan Junaidi said that he came to the conclusion that illegal bauxite mining has occurred because, during a forty-minute aerial observation of the stockpiles, the volume has not fallen.
“I’m very confident that illegal mining operation has taken place because during the aerial observation on all mines, we can still see a lot of bauxite stockpiles despite not seeing any moving lorries,” he told reporters.
“This is weird because since the implementation of the moratorium period, we have exported 5.2 tonnes of bauxite and even before that we had five million tonnes of stockpiles too.”
A lack of enforcement officers likely made illicit mining more prevalent, he went on.
Wan Junaidi noted that he approved of the progress that has been made to date by the government agencies involved in cleaning up pollution from pre-ban irresponsible mining, including the Kuantan Port Consortium, which spent US$6.7 million to upgrade bauxite processing facilities.
“We thank the ports for taking steps to make it right despite having suffered some losses during the moratorium period. All quarters must learn. It is a hard lesson, (suffering for) almost a year,” he opined.