Bauxite mines are now death traps

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Source: The Star Online

PETALING JAYA: They dot Kuantan and its outskirts – giant holes at places where bauxite was once mined. With the rainy season, the deep, gaping holes near housing areas and schools have become death traps for unsuspecting children who go there to play.

There are few fences and signages, if any, and these places are a “child magnet”, accor­ding to Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh. What’s worse is: nobody even knows just how many such pools there are in the Kuantan area.

On Friday, three children drowned in one such pool in Taman Sungai Karang Jaya, leading to even the Pahang Regent Tengku Mahkota Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, stepping in.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar has also ordered the Minerals and Geoscience Department – an agency of the ministry – to find out the number of such pools there are.

He also wants all bauxite mining operators to either fill the disused mining pools with earth or put up fences and warning signboards along the perimeter of such pools.

“The ministry will find out how to make these measures compulsory for all mines,” Dr Wan Junaidi said in a statement.

He reminded the public, especially parents, of the dangers of mining pools and expressed his condolences to the families.

Fuziah said the tragedy on Friday was not the first to happen. She said a teen had drowned in a bauxite pool near Kampung Padang back in 2015.

She welcomed the order by Tengku Abdullah to have the pools filled.

“But whose responsibility is it to fill the mines? That’s never been agreed on, whether it’s the state or the miners who have to close them,” said Fuziah.

She said the recent flood season had turned most larger, inactive sites into potentially dangerous pools.

Many of these mines are now lying idle after Dr Wan Junaidi imposed a moratorium on bauxite mining in Pahang after the roads and housing areas in Kuantan turned red with the dust from lorries transporting bau­xite out of the city and to the port.