PETALING JAYA: The government will close down the mine that is believed to have put the lives of the Bateq people at risk, says Deputy Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Tengku Zulpuri Shah Raja Puji.This follows reports of deaths among the Orang Asli who lived about 2km away.
The deaths are believed to have been caused by consuming polluted water from a nearby river.
Tengku Zulpuri also revealed that the operators were mining manganese in Aring, Kuala Koh, illegally. Their licence expired in 2017.
“They have a mining licence from the state ... but they need both licences to continue operations,” he said.
“That mine should be closed.”
Tengku Zulpuri said although the mine was the only one he saw during a visit, he believed that there were more around the area.
Meanwhile, Association for the Protection of the Natural Heritage of Malaysia president Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil said she was surprised that it was business as usual at the mine.
She said the Bateq people’s health could also have been threatened by rubber plantations that were close to the mine.
“There are always some chemicals involved in these kinds of operations,” Shariffa said.
“And traces of it may have found their way to the rivers and tributaries that the Orang Asli depend on.”
She is of the opinion that the polluted water had weakened the Orang Asli’s immune system over time, causing them to fall sick easily.
Shariffa also said that the Orang Asli settlements continued to be threatened by other destructive forest and land activities.
“If they moved further and further into the jungle, they might be cut off from amenities such as healthcare,” she said.