KUANTAN: In the early hours one morning, Kampung Padang resident Amir Izham Amit was awakened by a torrent of reddish muddy water gushing into his home.
The walls of a nearby retention pond had collapsed during an overnight downpour and the water flooded into bauxite stockpiles at a nearby mine, turning into a mudslide.
“It was 3am and my family members were sleeping,” Amir recalled. “I suddenly heard the sound of rushing water and woke up to find my whole house flooded.
“My wife and I were so shocked because we did not know where it was coming from. This had never happened before,” he said.
The 27-year-old said he later found out that bauxite sediment had clogged up the drainage, causing an overflow.
Amir said it took him an entire day to clean up the mess and claimed that the flood, which occurred some three weeks ago, caused RM3,000 in damages to his property.
“It only rained heavily for a couple of hours and the effect was already that severe. I shudder to think what would happen if a full-blown monsoon hits.
“This problem only came when bauxite mining turned into a serious activity in Bukit Goh over the past year," he said.
Bauxite mining in Pahang has surged since 2014 following Indonesia’s ban on the ore exports and a weaker ringgit.
According to the Minerals and Geoscience Department, production in Malaysia increased more than four-fold to 962,799 tonnes in 2014 from the year before.
Bauxite ore is refined into aluminium and is in-demand in China.
The effects of the rampant mining has been causing uneasiness among residents near the main mining sites in Bukit Goh, just 15km outside of the town and along the roads leading to Kuantan Port.
Many residents have started calling the area Planet Mars due to the red dust that covers roads, vehicles and houses in the area.
Felda Bukit Kuantan settler Hassan Said, 51, fears that the soil dropping from bauxite lorries will clog up drains and worsen floods.
“Even a short bout of rain or flash floods have sent reddish water into my house,” he said, complaining that dozens of bauxite lorries also roared by his home daily.
Felda Bukit Goh manager Hamir Husin Ismail said the palm oil plantations, which had been cleared to mine bauxite, were susceptible to soil erosion, especially during the rainy season.
“Down the road, it is the settlers who will be in trouble,” he said.