Bauxite mining to resume only if new SOP complied

By ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN & DASHVEENJIT KAUR / Pic By ISMAIL CHE RUS

Bauxite mining and exports will not begin immediately after the expiry of the moratorium end of this month, said Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar (picture).

He said the government will continue to restrict bauxite mining activities in the country until all stakeholders adhere to the new standard operating procedure (SOP), which will be made public in the next two weeks.

Dr Xavier said on technical grounds, bauxite mining activities can only resume once the stop mining order issued in January 2016 is withdrawn as stipulated under the Mineral Development Act 1994 (Act 525).

“Even if the moratorium on bauxite mining and exports expires at the end of this month, it does not mean mining activities can immediately begin on April 1,” Dr Xavier told a media conference at the Parliament yesterday.

The minister added that bauxite miners will be told to conduct an environmental impact assessment (EIA) of their respective sites before they are given licences to restart operations. He did not specify when the EIAs will begin, but said each one would take at least six months to complete.

Dr Xavier said the new SOP will impose stringent requirements covering the whole chain of mining activities, starting from the pre-mining stage until the post-mining stage, including recovery plans, logistics and stockpile handling at the port.

“Those who do not adhere to the SOP can be taken to the court and be fined. The ministry regulates it and will work along with the state government to ensure enforcement takes place,” he said.

The public will be able to access the SOP starting March 31 on the ministry’s webpage. The ministry will organise a public hearing on April 14 in Kuantan with all stakeholders including non-governmental organisations, environmentalists and local residents.

Last February, the government decided that it would not extend the moratorium due to strong demand for bauxite, which is used to make aluminium.

The unregulated mining of the material, which is high in aluminium content, had polluted water systems, damaged roads — as hundreds of lorries sent their loads of bauxite — and changed the landscape to look like the surface of Mars.

Lucrative returns and high demand of bauxite saw Pahang boost Malaysia’s bauxite-ore production from 200,000 tonnes in 2013 to almost 20 million tonnes in 2015, making the country one of the world’s largest producers of the mineral.

Most of the ore ended in China, with shipments peaking at nearly 3.5 million tonnes a month as at end-2015. It was reported that the Pahang state government received RM47 million in royalty payments in 2015 from its bauxite industry.

In another development, the government is finalising the proposed amendments to the Atomic Energy Licensing Act 1984 (Act 304), before forwarding the draft to the Attorney General’s Chamber.

Deputy Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis said the amendments would include enhancements to the existing regulations on radioactive and nuclear material use, as well as radioactive waste management.