Expert: Bauxite industry needs stricter system

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Source: The Star Online

KUANTAN: The Government should draw up more stringent procedures for the industry during the three-month moratorium on bau­xite mining, says a geologist.

Assoc Prof Dr Habibah Jamil, who is with the Science and Technology Faculty at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, said it was vital because the ore posed a danger to health.

“Bauxite is high in aluminium hydroxide, iron oxide and chromium.

“These elements are inside the fine dust and can be absorbed into the body through inhalation,” she said.

She said bauxite could also pollute water sources and the heavy metals ingested by fish and animals could end up in people.

“Long term exposure to aluminium hydro­xide can cause Alzheimer’s disease while iron oxide will damage the liver,” she said.

She said a type of chromium could even cause cancer after long exposure.

Aside from that, the reddish dust makes water murky and will kill fish and other life in the ponds and rivers it pollutes.

The heavy metals can also affect trees and plants, she said.

“If exposure is high, the leaves turn yellow while the tree won’t bear fruit and will die.

“But some plants store the heavy metals in their stems, leaves and fruits.

“If these contaminated plants or fruits are eaten by humans and animals, the heavy me­­tals get into their bodies,” she said.

Dr Habibah said the adverse effects on humans might only be seen after many years.

Bauxite mining should be done far from places where people live or in unpopulated areas, she said.

She said the industry in Kuantan was has­tily done to seize market share left by Indonesia, and without in-depth study.

“Hopefully during the moratorium period, a plan of action can be prepared,” she said.

She added that the bauxite in Kuantan had 32% to 52% aluminium hydroxide and between 14% and 32% iron oxide. ­— Bernama