Though the calendar has changed, the situation for bauxite miners in Pahang remains the same, at least through the opening quarter of the new year, as Malaysia’s government extended yet again the moratorium on bauxite mining.
The Water, Land and Natural Resources Ministry made the announcement yesterday of an agreement between its head, Dr. Xavier Jayakumar, and Pahang Menteri Besar Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail to continue the ban on bauxite. The ministry said the ban will continue until new standard operating procedures (SOP) over the mining, transportation, stockpiling, and export of bauxite ore are finalized.
“The moratorium is also necessary to remove the bauxite stockpiles from the Kuantan Port and Kemaman Port,” continued the official announcement.
The ministry indicated that a new set of SOP’s is currently in draft form, the product of a task force from among state and federal agencies. However, an additional hurdle, namely the clearance of existing stockpiles, still remains.
“Hence, the moratorium on bauxite mining and export activities in Pahang need to be extended to clear the existing stockpiles,” explained the ministry.
Existing stockpiles must be cleared and clean-up effected before the new SOP is implemented, according to the ministry. Until then, all bauxite mining in the area continues to be prohibited.
“No party shall be allowed to carry out any bauxite mining work in Pahang until the order is withdrawn,” declared the announcement.
Not all parties are happy with yesterday’s extension. Sungai Lembing assemblyman Datuk Md Sohaimi Mohamed Shah, who represents an area including a significant bauxite mining site, is eager to see the new SOP released and mining resumed.
“There is a huge mining site in Bukit Goh and many areas which have yet to be mined for the mineral, but the area has been left unattended since the moratorium was enforced in January 2016. None of the mining sites have been covered up as the settlers are still waiting for the green light from the government.”
“There seems to be some positive progress in terms of discussions between the federal and state government along with the enforcement agencies to allow mining activities to resume,” he continued. “So I hope that they will be able to give settlers some good news soon.”
A local miner who spoke to domestic media on condition of anonymity expressed the frustration felt by many of his kinsmen over the lack of inclusion in the process.
“They cannot simply introduce a new law as it will be unfair for the small mining operators. The established ones might be able to adhere to their SOP but the smaller ones, especially those in Bukit Goh, might need time to adopt and make the required changes.”
“It is going to be almost three years since the moratorium was enforced but the remaining stockpile in both Kuantan Port and Kemaman Port have yet to be cleared,” he lamented. “How much of stockpile is left and how long will it take to be cleared?”