THE Malaysian government has banned bauxite mining in the central state of Pahang for three months from 15 January, after the industry was linked to sea and air pollution, according to reports.
Associated Press (AP) says that the government will use the time to better regulate the industry after huge growth. Bauxite mining began in Pahang in 2013, but demand from China surged after Indonesia banned exports of the aluminium ore and India raised ore tariffs. In 2015, around 40% of China’s bauxite imports came from Malaysia, according to Bloomberg. AP reports that Malaysia exported more than 20m t of bauxite to China last year, compared to a little under 1m t in 2014.
The large mining industry that grew up as a result of the rise in demand has been blamed for turning rivers and seawater red in Pahang’s capital Kuantan, after heavy rains. In addition, officials say that the mining lorries kick up large amounts of dust, making the air unhealthy.
Malaysia’s natural resources minister Wan Junaidi Jaafar told a news conference attended by AP that mining companies will have to clear 12 stockpiles of red earth containing the ore and build proper washing, drainage and storage facilities for the ore. Exports can continue but no new export permits will be granted. After the three-month period, monthly production will be limited to 2.2m t, Kuantan port’s capacity. According to Bloomberg, the three-month moratorium on exports will be extended if the industry fails to obey the orders.
Pahang chief minister Adnan Yaakob told the press conference that there are 22 licensed bauxite miners in Pahang and that better regulation will make the industry more sustainable.
“When the supply is low, prices will go up. This is a blessing in disguise for the players,” he said.
Catch up on the latest news, views and jobs from The Chemical Engineer. Below are the four latest issues. View a wider selection of the archive from within the Magazine section of this site.