I WOULD like to commend the New Straits Times for highlighting the adverse effects of uncontrolled bauxite-mining activities and relentlessly pursuing the matter. This is a grave concern and, if left unchecked, could have long-term, disastrous consequences.
The decision by the cabinet to issue a stop-work order on bauxite mining in Pahang due to environmental and health concerns is very much welcome as the situation has aggravated. Last Tuesday, the sea off Kuantan turned red as heavy rain washed bauxite residue from a stockpile near Kuantan Port, as well as from the mines up in the hills into the nearby river which flows to the sea.
There is also another immediate critical issue to be taken care of by the state authorities during the rainy season: bauxite residue can clog the drains and cause bauxite landslide or floods.
While bauxite mining ought to be allowed in the country due to high demand for the substance, which is commonly used in aluminium metal production, mining activities should be regulated and controlled.
This is to safeguard the environment, public health and safety.
The adverse impacts of uncontrolled and unregulated bauxite-mining activities have been emphasised by the media, scientists and environmental experts. Road safety is another concern as there have been accidents, some of which were fatal, involving speeding lorries transporting bauxite.
The relevant authorities in the state should weed out illegal bauxite-mining operators, make sure licensed operators use the designated roads to transport raw material and put in place regulations, guidelines, licensing as well as environmental and health protection measures.
The state should take into account the findings and recommended plan of action by
environmental group Responsible Citizens of Malaysia and Conscientious Professional and Scientists.
The direct impact on workers in the bauxite industry should also be considered. Are these workers trained to practice safe work procedures when carrying out their tasks?
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE,
chairman, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health