Ministry monitoring health of residents at bauxite-mining areas

New standard operating procedures for bauxite mining will be in place when the moratorium expires on March 31. (Bernama pic)

PUTRAJAYA: The health ministry has been constantly monitoring the health of residents who live around bauxite-mining areas near Kuantan, said its minister Dzulkefly Ahmad.

He said the monitoring was carried out by obtaining regular health reports from various health and medical facilities in the area.

“We monitor through case statistics, such as respiratory infections in clinics. We check whether there has been a significant increase in the problem.

“We also monitor the quality of fresh water and fruits, looking for traces of heavy metals in them,” he told a media conference at the ministry here today.

“We want to ensure that the people do not suffer as a result of bauxite-mining activities,” he said, adding that the matter was also brought up at the Cabinet meeting today.

On Feb 18, Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Xavier Jayakumar had announced that the moratorium on bauxite mining and exports would not be extended beyond March 31.

As a result, all activities in the mining and export of the mineral can resume. There will be new standard operating procedures and tighter law enforcement.

Meanwhile, Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh said she had her reservations on the matter.

Fuziah, who is also deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, said the new standard operating procedures only allowed bauxite that had been processed to be exported.

“Bauxite contains heavy metals. When processed, the water will enter the nearby rivers,” she said, adding that it could cause health implications to locals.

She also asked the government to immediately showcase the new standard operating procedures for bauxite mining before the moratorium expires on March 31.

Fuziah also voiced her concerns over the significant weaknesses, especially in the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report at the mining sites, because only one report was available despite 3,642ha of mining areas in the state.

She said an EIA report was required for each mining site as each one was different, with different housing, water catchment and forest areas.