Dr Xavier: New bauxite mining licences by January

Pahang state govt has agreed that only a few operators will be allowed to operate in Gebeng, Kuantan, after obtaining the approval

Pic By TMR File

THE government will issue new bauxite mining licences by January next year, followed by the standard operating procedure (SOP) trial that will kick-start for six months.

The issuance of the licences would mark a resumption in mining activity after the government issued a ban in 2016 due to unregulated mining that caused water contamination, among others.

Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar (picture) said many companies have shown interest but so far only three have applied for the licences.

“For now about three big companies (have applied). There is a need of large capital injection, hence only companies that have enough of capital expenditure (capex) will be able to apply because there are a lot of regulations.”

“We think we will be able to issue mining licences by the end of December or early January. This is where the six-month pilot period for the SOP will start,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby yesterday.

According to Dr Xavier, all companies that have applied for the licence are locals.

“We want to have a trial (pilot) in one area first where the SOP will be adhered in full and then after six months we will decide,” he added.

Dr Xavier further explained that a six-month period is sufficient to monitor the performance of contractor companies for the SOP implementation.

“We will use the SOP in a strict way. The ministry in cooperation with the state government of Pahang has made sure that anyone applying for a licence should follow the SOP.

“If not, we (the ministry) will terminate their contract immediately,” he said in Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

The minister was responding to a supplement question from Che Alias Hamid (PAS-Kemaman) who inquired about the government’s action to ensure the mining licensees comply with the new SOP.

To test the effectiveness of the new SOP, Dr Xavier said the Pahang state government has agreed that only a few operators will be allowed to operate in Gebeng, Kuantan, after obtaining the approval.

Dr Xavier also said the SOP imposes strict conditions from the application, transport, centralised stockpile and export process.

Among the requirements that industry players must adhere to are the approval of the environmental impact assessment report, the minimum size of the mine site and the processing of bauxite ore.

“The SOP took into account the views of all stakeholders including the local community, industry players, non-governmental organisations, residents associations. The SOP is independently assessed by the Executive Committee on SOP Evaluation of Mining and Exporting of Pahang’s Bauxite.”

Malaysia was once the biggest bauxite supplier to top aluminium producer China, with shipments peaking at nearly 3.5 million tonnes a month around the end of 2015.

Most of the nation’s bauxite, an ore used to produce aluminium, is mined in the east coast port city of Kuantan, Pahang.