KUANTAN: The 10 million tonnes of bauxite stockpile seized by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission was estimated at RM1.28 billion and most are concentrated in areas around Felda Bukit Goh and the Kuantan port here.
Pahang Mining Operators Association vice-president Yap Soon Huat said the estimation was based on the average export price of a tonne of the mineral at USD30 (RM128).
"I was truly surprised when informed about the 10 million tonnes of bauxite confiscated by the MACC starting from yesterday as bauxite-mining activities had dropped after the government enforced the moratorium (on mining bauxite).
“I am not sure in regards to those who conduct illegal bauxite-mining. Last year records showed that bauxite export only came to six tonnes while for 2015 there was 25 tonnes of known (bauxite) that recorded it as the highest bauxite export in the world after Indonesia halted its (bauxite) mining activities," he said when contacted.
Yesterday, the MACC announced that it would seize 10 million metric tonnes of bauxite stockpile to prevent the mineral from being sold and to facilitate a probe into unlawful bauxite-mining.
The confiscation of the bauxite stockpile found on government and private land is made under Section 33 of the MACC Act 2009 and those who contravene the seizure notice can be punished under Section 69 of the same Act.
MACC had also suggested for the Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) Ministry to relook the issuance of Approved Permits (AP) to bauxite miners and the cancellation of all AP issued previously.
When contacted, Pahang MACC director Datuk Alias Salim confirmed several areas where bauxite stockpiles were seized are located near Felda Bukit Goh and Kuantan Port.
However, he declined to provide further details about the MACC seizure operation in the state.
On Aug 2, MACC conducted a wide crackdown on illegal bauxite-mining, nabbing a senior state Customs enforcement officer, 10 state Land and Mines Office (PTG) enforcement officers, and a PTG general assistant.
The Customs officer was alleged to have taken kickbacks to turn a blind eye to illegally-mined bauxite brought to Kuantan Port to be exported overseas.
The 10 PTG officers were purported to have received bribes to inform miners of any impending raids by the authorities.
According to MACC deputy public prosecutor Mohamad Fadhly Mohd Zamry, only the PTG general assistant remains under remand while the others had been released from remand.
At the Kuantan Courts Complex here today, Magistrate Nordiana Abd Aziz allowed an application by MACC prosecuting officer Mohd Faisal Ibrahim to extend the remand on the PTG general assistant.
His remand was ordered to run for five days from Monday (Aug 14) until Friday (Aug 18).
Meanwhile, checks at Felda Bukit Goh here found a sign, on an entrance to land where there was bauxite stockpile, notifying of the seizure.
A drive along the major roads inside the Felda plantation reveals wide reddish clearings with towering stockpiles of bauxite.
Heavy machinery and excavators lay silent at areas where reddish bauxite stained the earth, their operators not seen within the vicinity.
Now and then, white coloured four-wheel drive vehicles could be seen parked at the side of the road leading to land where bauxite stockpile is located.
The identities of the drivers and any other occupants within were hard to be ascertained due to the vehicles' partially-tinted windows.
These surreptitious vehicles hint at the presence of "tontos" or lookouts purportedly used by miners to monitor for any incoming raids and keep away unwanted attention to the illicit mining activities taking place in the settlement.
On Jan 15 last year, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry ordered a moratorium on all bauxite-mining activities.
The federal government order however permitted transportation of bauxite stockpiles, collected from mining activities done before the moratorium, out from the mining areas to Kuantan Port for shipping overseas.