Lately many things have been published in the press about the complaints of the residents of Bukit Koman, Raub, Pahang over a gold processing facility next to our village.
Ministers have vouched for the safety of the facility in our village. We are of the opinion that they have been misinformed and are unaware of what we have been suffering.
Since the facility began operations in February 2009, we have smelt noxious fumes on several occasions, the latest of which was on the morning of July 8. The smell is a nauseating, acidic, chemical smell. Since then, the residents have experienced ill health, shortness of breath, eye irritation, breathing problems, nausea, and an itchy rash on their bodies.
The residents have sought treatment at the Raub General Hospital and at private clinics. All our complaints have been forwarded to the authorities.
We want the health authorities to explain why is it that so many in a village are falling ill, all at the same time, as before the facility began operations, we never experienced this. Thorough investigations must be carried out. Our complaints cannot simply be dismissed. Many of us have been very worried, anxious and some even depressed since the facility began operations.
On July 1, after a consultation, the Department of Environment (DOE) came to our village and installed some equipment to monitor the chemicals in our surroundings. Six days later, the equipment was taken away. And on July 8, we were once again exposed to noxious fumes. Why didn’t DOE just leave the equipment there? Continuous monitoring is necessary to get accurate information. There was no such incident while the instruments were in the village.
Regarding the assurances by the ministers that the facility is safe, we have this to say:
1. Our expert has advised us that the technology is inherently dangerous, not only because cyanide is being used, but also because the wastes produced are potential sources of toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, mercury and cyanide compounds. There is a great risk that these will contaminate our water resources.
2. What makes the technology and the use of cyanide more dangerous in our case is the proximity of the plant to our village. The nearest house is in fact less than 10m away from the area of the mine and not 600 metres as claimed.
3. There are many crucial details about the operations of this facility that are missing from the documents submitted to the authorities, mainly the EIA, including the content of the wastes and effluents, the details of how these will be disposed, what steps will be taken to protect the surrounding community from contamination, etc.
We categorically deny that there was any consultation with us before or after the EIA was approved.
The so-called meetings organised with some residents in Bukit Koman were merely to ‘rubber stamp’ the project, so that it could be said that we had been consulted. However, our views were never really taken into account, and our questions have until today, been left unanswered.
1. Continuous monitoring by the DOE and other authorities of the air and water quality in the area, focussing not only on cyanide, but also other chemicals and hazardous materials.
2. Investigations to be carried out by the DOE and the health authorities into reasons for the suffering of the residents of Bukit Koman.
3. Specific answers to all the questions we have raised to the authorities, including the DOE, and Department of Health.
Bukit Koman Anti-Cyanide Action Committee