KUANTAN: Land owners anxiously waiting on when bauxite mining could restart said they are ready to follow regulations but the public and their elected representatives are more keen on enforcement.
They were, however, on the same page in preventing bauxite pollution from reoccurring.
This was apparent during a public hearing on the bauxite mining standard operating procedure (SOP) yesterday.
Lawyer Hon Kai Ping said the SOP looked good but would have no teeth if it was not enforced.
He called for an independent monitoring committee made up of representatives of residents, NGOs and government departments to be formed to oversee adherence of the SOP.
Beserah assemblyman Andansura Rabu echoed Hon’s sentiment, saying that a one-stop centre should be set up to take complaints.
“The villagers are not a ball to be passed around. They do not want to call up an agency to lodge a complaint only to be told it is not under its jurisdiction,” he said.
Felda Bukit Goh Village Community Management Council chief Jefri Salim proposed that a reference body be set up under the residents’ control.
He added that an insurance fund should be created for those involved directly and affected indirectly by bauxite mining.
Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh pointed out that loopholes might emerge since there would be an overlap of jurisdiction between federal and state agencies when enforcing the SOP.
She urged the bauxite mining SOP executive review committee to look into a mechanism to tackle this issue.
“The federal and state governments are both ruled by different administrations. If something happens, we may end up pointing fingers at each other. Before that crops up, we better talk about it first,” said Fuziah.
Meanwhile, mining operators grumbled over strict requirements that could cut into profits seeing that the price of bauxite had dropped over the three years the moratorium was enforced.
Review committee chairman Datuk Dr Azizan Abu Samah said the feedback collected during the hearing would be considered when finalising the SOP.
Among the suggestions that could be worked out was a monitoring committee that meets regularly and an online complaints channel, he said.
“To me, the more transparency and communication, the better it is. That is my principle,” he told reporters after the hearing.
Dr Azizan said the review committee would continue to meet until the end of this month and finalise the SOP by then.
He also urged the public to be patient as past problems could happen again if they rushed into restarting the mining of bauxite.
“We have mined bauxite before and are still mining in a sustainable manner. Pengerang has been mining for a long time without any problem.
“So it is not an issue that you can’t mine bauxite. It is how you mine bauxite,” he said.