Bauxite mining to resume

On site: Dr Xavier (third from left) visiting a bauxite mine in Kuantan. — Bernama

On site: Dr Xavier (third from left) visiting a bauxite mine in Kuantan. — Bernama

KUANTAN: Bauxite mining in Pahang will resume in April and the government’s decision is a relief to industry players.

Water, Land and Natural Res­ources Minister Dr Xavier Jaya­ku­mar said that during engagements with stakeholders, no one said the industry should be stopped.

“Everyone is in agreement that bauxite mining has potential.

“It is quite profitable, with the state getting about RM47mil in royalty in 2015,” he said after inspecting mining sites here yesterday.

Bauxite mining activities in the state had been suspended since 2016 after environmental pollution became rampant.

To prevent this from reoccurring, Dr Xavier said the Cabinet had agreed to a new standard operating procedure (SOP) that covers all aspects, from mining to export.

“Anyone who disregards the rules will be heavily penalised. Fines of more than RM500,000 and imprisonment of up to three years will be meted out on those who encroach or do illegal activities.

“I am going to enforce this SOP, so the industry will follow what we have set,” Dr Xavier said.

However, the SOP will only apply to Pahang for now while the ministry studies how to extend it to other states with bauxite such as Johor and Terengganu.

Dr Xavier said the SOP also covers transportation.

“Those who want to engage in transportation must register with the Land and Mines Office. We also have standards on what are req­uired of the lorries,” he added.

He said mined bauxite ore must now be washed before being exported.

“Raw bauxite will not be allowed to be exported because we want to control the environmental degradation in the country,” he said.

Dr Xavier said some of the industry players already had infrastructure for washing ore, while those interested in downstream activities were most welcome to take part.

He also said the lifting of the moratorium meant that the existing stockpile of 435,000 tonnes of bauxite at the Kuantan and Kemaman ports must be cleared by March 31.

“We are asking all those involved to cooperate with the ministry and state to get it done in the coming month,” he added.

Pahang Mineral Operators Assoc­iation vice-president Datuk Yap Soon Huat said they welcomed the decision and would gladly work with the government to regulate the industry.

“Everyone is waiting to resume operations. We’ve seen how Kuan­tan’s economy has slowed down.

“I am confident that we can contribute to the state’s economy with our activities,” he said.

Yap said the association would ensure that its members complied with the new SOP.

“All legal operators will sign a memorandum promising to regulate our own activities.

“We will collect evidence of any operator that is out of line and forward it to the authorities. We will not tolerate any illegal activities,” he added.