Malaysia imposes three-month ban on bauxite mining after complaints of contaminated coastline and rivers

A river in Kuantan, Pahang, Malaysia, believed to have turned red due to bauxite pollution.
A river in Kuantan, Pahang, Malaysia, believed to have turned red due to bauxite pollution.PHOTO: NSTP

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS) - Malaysia imposed a three-month ban on bauxite mining, effective from Jan 15, due to concerns over its impact on the environment in a move that could hurt stockpiles of the aluminium making ingredient in China.

Malaysia's bauxite mining industry has boomed in the past two years to meet demand from top aluminium producer China, but a lack of regulations has led to a public outcry with many complaining of water contamination and environmental damages.

Just last month, bauxite mining was blamed for turning the waters red on a stretch of coastline and surrounding rivers in eastern peninsula Malaysia after heavy rains. "Everything will come to a complete stop on Jan 15,"Malaysia's natural resources and environment minister, Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, said in a press conference on Wednesday (Jan 6).

Other than clearing of stockpiles and installation of cleaning facilities, all other activities will stop, he added.

Malaysia will also freeze new bauxite export permits for the three months, the minister said.

In the first 11 months of 2015, Malaysia exported more than 20 million tonnes of bauxite to China, surging nearly 700 percent from a year ago. In 2013, it shipped 162,000 tonnes.

The Southeast Asian nation has been exporting increasing amounts of the raw material to China, filling in a supply gap after Indonesia banned bauxite exports in early 2014.