Small business operators and food vendors in Bukit Goh, Pahang said rampant bauxite mining there has severely affected their business, refuting the menteri besar’s claim that locals have benefited from the industry.
Motorcycle workshop owner Suhaizam Abdul Aziz, 45, said contrary to Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob’s statement that bauxite mining generated economic activities with spin-off effects in the state, it had only brought misery for locals.
“Who benefited from it? Not locals.
“If you look at the industry closely, the money went to outsiders. Most of the lorry drivers come from outside the state. Likewise, the workers. There were some locals but the ratio is small, like 50 foreigners to four locals,” said Suhaizam.
Suhaizam, a second generation Felda settler who operates a workshop by the main road of Bukit Goh, said his business dropped by more than 50% because of the bauxite activities around the settlement and palm estates.
“I used to make good money. People came as far as Gebeng to have their machines fixed here. But business has slowed down a lot and my expenses have increased,” said Suhaizam.
He said he now had to spend more than RM2,000 each month to pay the bills and for rent of his premise.
“Every morning, I have to spray water using a water jet around the compound to settle the dust, then I have to clean all the machines that were covered with it.
“I repeat the same thing before I close my workshop. That is double effort of everything. I do not mind the extra effort if my business is not affected, but it’s getting worse,” he said.
With a third child on the way, Suhaizam is angry and frustrated over the failure of many parties in dealing with bauxite issues.
He said community leaders right up to the authorities and the state government had failed the people.
Since Kuantan ramped up its mining of bauxite for export to China last year, residents in the area have complained about pollution, caused by red dust from the mining activities and leakage from lorries transporting bauxite to the Kuantan port.
“What’s the point of having village head, estate manager, Road Transport Department (JPJ), Public Land Transport Commission (SPAD) or even the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) when they all sit on the complaints brought to them?” said Suhaizam, adding that he had lodged complaints the authorities, including JPJ.
“I did try with JPJ. Before the bauxite activities here, the department used to conduct roadblocks every week in Bukit Goh, but after the activities I have not seen even one. Funny, isn’t it?
“When I called their office to speak to the officer in charge, I was told he either had not arrived, or had gone out for a break or had left the office for something. I made calls in the mornings, afternoons and evenings and I still could not get even one officer to speak to,” he said.
Food vendor Samsiah Yaakob, 64, said the bauxite activities had affected her business so badly that she had to stop operating for more than four months last year, to build an enclosure for her food business so that her customers could have their meals in comfort.
The renovation cost her RM5,000.
“But having it covered up has also affected my business. People who passed by thought that it was a house, not an eatery.
“I used to operate from 7am up till tea time but now I close after lunch around 2pm because no one comes after that hour. My earnings now are just enough to pay for the bills and token payments to my daughters who help me to run the business,” she said.
She said the mining activities not only ruined her business but also the plants in the area.
“I grow banana trees but they are all dead. The mangosteen from the neighbours’ trees cannot be eaten because the pulp is rotten,” she said.
In August last year, Adnan was reported by The Star as saying that Pahang could not immediately put a stop to bauxite mining because it had to consider those earning a living off it.
He said bauxite mining generated economic activities that had spin-off effects in the state.
“For example, we can see lorry drivers who used to earn RM1,500 to RM2,000 a month now taking home RM7,000 to RM8,000.
“Petrol kiosks, workshops and hawkers are also doing good business because of the mining activities,” said Adnan in response to reports that unregulated mining had released radioactive materials into the environment.
He said Felda Bukit Goh settlers had also pleaded with him to allow them to carry out bauxite mining on their land, located about 50km from Kuantan Port.
Putrajaya yesterday announced a three-month moratorium on all bauxite mining activities in Pahang starting January 15, to address the pollution it caused.
But Suhaizam was sceptical, and asked what would happen to all the land that had already been dug up.
“Stop work, then what? I hope they know what they are doing,” he said. – January 8, 2016.