Three years after environmental scare, Malaysia seeks to cap monthly bauxite exports at 600,000 tonnes

A truck driver watches as an excavator loads his vehicle at a bauxite storage site in Pahang, Malaysia. PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS) - Malaysia has capped its monthly bauxite exports at 600,000 tonnes, in draft proposals that aim to standardise the operating procedures for bauxite mining and export activities in its eastern state of Pahang.

The Kuantan port authority, which exports the bulk of Malaysia's bauxite from the country, had fixed the export capacity of the ore, said the ministry of water, land and natural resources in a draft of the new standard operating procedures on its website on Sunday (March 31).

"This capacity has taken into consideration various aspects including issues of cleanliness and the environment," according to the draft proposals.

The draft also included regulations for buffer zones between mining sites and residential areas, licensing procedures, and a stipulation that bauxite from mines more than 5km from the Kuantan port needs to be delivered to a centralised stockpile before it is sent to the port for shipment.

The ministry will take inputs from members of the public, industry and non-governmental organisations on the draft proposals on April 14 at Kuantan.

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

Bauxite ore is the world's main source of aluminium.

Unregulated mining and run-offs from unsecured stockpiles from mining areas largely in Pahang contaminated water sources and caused air and land pollution, leading to a ban on all bauxite mining activity since early 2016.

In February, Malaysia announced the lifting of the ban by end-March, but said all mining and export activities would be done with new standard operating procedures and under tighter laws.

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