KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia is pushing to suspend bauxite mining due to concerns about its impact on the environment, a Cabinet source said yesterday, threatening to interrupt supply of the aluminium-making ingredient to China.
The largely unregulated industry has grown rapidly in the last two years to meet Chinese demand.
The mining for bauxite, an aluminium ore, was blamed for turning the waters red on a stretch of coastline and surrounding rivers in Pahang state after two days of heavy rain earlier this week.
The Cabinet wants to temporarily halt bauxite mining until regulations, licensing and environmental protection can be put in place, the source told Reuters. "The idea is to suspend it for a time until all this is sorted out but, ultimately, the prerogative for licensing lies with the state," he said.
Waters and seas near Pahang's state capital Kuantan ran red earlier this week as downpours brought an increase in run-off from the ochre-red earth at the mines and the stockpiles, stoking environmental concerns.
State official in charge of the environment Mohd Soffi Abdul Razak, however, blamed the pollution on illegal mine operators, and not on mines run by companies approved by the state government, according to local media reports.
The mines have been shipping increasing amounts of the raw material to China, filling in a gap after Indonesia banned bauxite exports in early 2014. In the first 11 months of last year, Malaysia exported more than 20 million tonnes of bauxite to China, an increase of nearly 700 per cent on the previous year. In 2013, it shipped just 162,000 tonnes.