Experts warn against bauxite mining during rainy season


  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 16 Dec 2015

Sea of dust: Massive land clearing for bauxite mining has turned former oil palm plantations into barren land.

Sea of dust: Massive land clearing for bauxite mining has turned former oil palm plantations into barren land.

Experts believe bauxite mining areas in Pahang could cause dangerous mudslides and worsen floods if monsoon rains lash the state as expected. Even those who support the mining activities are calling for a stop until the rains go away.

KUANTAN: With monsoon rains expected to lash Pahang and some other states this week, red flags have gone up over bauxite mining here.

Experts are warning that the massively cleared areas being mined for the ore could pose dangers such as mudslides and landslides.

Universiti Malaysia Pahang Geotechnical and Infrastructure Engineering Department head Dr Muzamir Hasan said Bukit Goh, one of the most active bauxite mining areas, was close to residential areas and a river.

“It is also a hilly area, making the risk of land movement higher, especially since laterite soil is less compact,” he said.

Other experts said that with the heavy rainfall and increased runoff, even more sediment from erosion would be washed into streams and rivers, making them shallow.

“This will increase the risk of floods, as well as pollute the water,” said Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s Chemical Engineering Department Prof Dr Maketab Mohamed.

The Star yesterday reported that Meteorological Department deputy director-general Alui Bahari said that heavy monsoon rains accompanied by thunderstorms were expected in Terengganu, Pahang, Johor and west Sarawak.

The department has issued a yellow alert, signalling imminent downpours in these areas within one to three days.

Those who are against bauxite mining are urging the companies involved to stop work during the monsoon season, saying that their workers would be at risk from mudslides.

Even those who support the mining activity agree with their rivals on this.

Sungai Lembing assemblyman Datuk Md Sohaimi Mohamed Shah, who backs bauxite mining as an economic activity, said the work should stop.

“It is standard practice to stop logging during the monsoon season, this should apply to bauxite mining.

“Its impact on the landscape would be worsened by heavy rains,” he said.

He also said that the many lorries transporting bauxite in the rain would cause the roads and nearby areas turning red in their wake.

Bukit Goh Bauxite Issues Committee chairman Datuk Dr Abd Wahid Abd Manap said it had put up gates as a precaution.

He said the gates would be closed whenever it rains to prevent the bauxite lorries from moving.

“The taukehs (traders) also won’t want to buy the bauxite when it is wet because it will weigh more and cost them more,” he said.

However, both Md Sohaimi and Dr Abd Wahid are against any long term stoppage.

The Coalition for Action Against Bauxite Pollution has urged the state government to stop the mining by year end.

The Pahang government allows the mining because people are earning a living from it.

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob has said that a solution, which will benefit both sides, would be announced in a matter of weeks.

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