Malaysia to end bauxite mining ban despite environment fears

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – Malaysia will next month lift a ban on bauxite mining that has been in place for three years, a minister said yesterday, despite warnings the move may cause serious environmental damage.

The mining of bauxite, the main ore used to smelt aluminium, took off in Malaysia to feed strong Chinese demand after neighbouring Indonesia banned exports in 2014.

But authorities imposed a ban after complaints that pits across the bauxite-rich central state of Pahang were blighting the landscape, rivers were being stained red by mining run-off, and there was a rise in respiratory problems and skin rashes.

In addition, critics said most of the mining was illegal, and done amateurishly with no government oversight.

Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Xavier Jayakumar said the new government which took power last year has decided not to extend a moratorium which ends on March 31.

“Industry players can resume mining by April, but they must adhere to strict mining conditions,” he told AFP, adding the move was to allow Pahang to earn crucial extra revenue.

This October 13, 2015 file photo shows a truck driver watching over as an excavator loads his vehicle at a bauxite storage site in Bukit Goh situated in Malaysia’s rural state of Pahang. – AFP