Citing a significant amount of ore that has yet to be cleared from Kuantan’s port, the Malaysian government extended its moratorium on bauxite mining to the end of the year.
Malaysia’s Natural Resources and Environment minister Datuk Seri Dr. Haji Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar told a press conference yesterday that, despite over three dozen approved permits (AP) outstanding authorizing the clearance of 5.4 million metric tons of ore, the lion’s share of it remains.
“The Cabinet has agreed that the moratorium on bauxite will be continued till 31st December 2016,” Wan Junaidi told the assembled reporters. “To date, we still have 4.13 million metric tonnes which have yet to be exported, though we gave out 38 APs which can enable 3.76 million metric tonnes of bauxite to be exported. But most unfortunately, only 1.27 million metric tonnes was exported.”
Many in the bauxite mining industry have criticized the government for standing in the way of clearing the ore by failing to approve a sufficient number of APs. Wan Junaidi addressed those charges in the press conference.
“If there are people outside there, the industry people or whoever, any companies or even ports claiming they are affected by the absence of bauxite business activities, it is not the ministry’s fault nor the fault of the state government. This is solely the fault of the industry people who, after getting their APs, did not move their export business,” he said.
When asked if the ministry is considering sanctions against companies that fail to clear their stock, he said, “This is just like when we give people AP to sell cars. If they don’t sell the cars, we cannot take action because they didn’t sell, we just stop their AP. If they do not sell then they won’t get money, so we cannot force.”
“If come Dec. 31 and the stockpiles are not cleared, I’m going to ask for (another) six months moratorium,” Wan Junaidi warned.
The moratorium, enacted on January 15 of this year, was originally intended to last for only three months. However, the moratorium has been extended several more times due to miners’ failure to meet clean-up milestones. The moratorium is the government’s response to local and international outcry after irresponsible mining practices left the Kuantan area’s land and waterways polluted by bauxite ore.