In order to halt water and air pollution caused by the unfettered growth of the industry, a halt in bauxite mining is planned for Malaysia’s Pahang region, starting with the 15th of January. Although this ban will last for 3 months, some state officials claim that this period is too short in comparison to the amount of environmental damage caused by this industry.
Bauxite is the main compound from which aluminum is produced. Mining has started in the Pahang region since 2013, but due to the increasing demand from the Chinese market, boosted by Indonesia’s halt in bauxite exports as well, the industry underwent a massive growth in 2014. Even if this surge was thoroughly criticized by the general public due to its adverse effects on the surrounding environment, mining still continued its growth.
The reason why this ban was instated this month stemmed from a prior contamination of Kuantan’s rivers and waters with red dirt, a byproduct of bauxite mining. The first instance of this red water phenomenon surfaced back in May 2015 and it occurred once again last month, after a period of intense raining and storms.
But waters are not the only ones affected by red dirt. Transporting this byproduct also causes red dust to be released into the air, affecting people’s lungs and can sometimes lead to life-threatening diseases.
During this 3-month long moratorium, 12 red earth stockpiles will have to be emptied with the help of a fleet of lorries. Several washing and storing facilities will also be constructed in order to upgrade the current state of the industry, making it slightly more environmentally friendly. Even if this task is seen by many to take much longer than 3 months, the Natural Resources Minister Wan Junaidi Jaafar claims that it will be sufficient.
Although this ban will effectively stop bauxite mining and aluminum production, the export of these ores will still continue in order to facilitate the current stockpile’s reduction. But new export permits will not be available during these 3 months.
In order to better ensure the production of bauxite, a new central storage facility will be built with upgraded facilities. The monthly production of this facility will be stopped at 2.2 million tons according to Kuantan’s main port capacity.
It is relatively easy to see how much this industry has grown in Malaysia if one would simply look at the numbers. In 2014, about one million tons of ore were exported to China, while in 2015 over 21 million tons of bauxite got shipped.
By further regulating bauxite mining, the state’s officials hope to build a much more reliable resource industry from both strength and sustainability points of view. This ban also comes as a somewhat beneficial event for ore sellers, because prices will go up if supply gets decreased.
Although a halt in bauxite mining is planned for Malaysia’s Pahang region, the total market value of the Malaysian mining industry will not face a massive plunge. During last year, a total of $10.7 million were made through ore exports, a staggering difference when compared to 2014’s $548.000.