I refer to the Malaysiakini report Poisonous goldmine row: Residents file suit.
The residents of Bukit Koman are seeking legal recourse over gold mining operation within their vicinity which involves the use of cyanide. The Malaysian Society of Natural Health fully supports the Bukit Koman villagers with an absolute ‘No to Cyanide’ in gold mining.
I learned early in my naturopathic medicine training that cyanide is the most deadliest poison on earth. Imagine the spy thriller movies when one bite of the capsule produces mouth-foaming and death within seconds. Imagine the gas chamber for Death Row prisoners. Imagine Auschwitz where Zyklon B pellets were used for mass murder via toxic gas. The common denominator is cyanide.
The cyanide compound, when dissolved in water, produces toxic gas. Cyanide binds readily to haemoglobin, preventing oxygen from reaching the cells, hence it kills by asphyxiation, or inhibiting tissue oxidation.
As cyanide readily bonds with gold, it is usually used to extract gold through a leaching process. Cyanide solutions are sprayed over dug out soil to bond with the minute grains of gold ore, and thereafter separating the cyanide solution and gold.
One can imagine the threat posed to the environment and public health by such a gigantic scale operation as in Bukit Koman, Raub – the toxic gas, ground and aquifer contamination, wastewater runoff flowing into river and sea, deaths to animals and birds, toxic accumulation of cyanide in marine life and plants will come back to haunt us.
Toxic accumulation in humans that can kill if the dose is fatal, or kill slowly over a few years depending on the level exposed to. Children born to parents exposed can have defects.
Surely the villagers of Bukit Koman do not need such gold-mining activities in their vicinity. As the operation grows in scale, more and more people will get sick due to cyanide exposure. Early signs and symptoms to low concentrations are dizziness, lethargy, nausea, palpitation, eye irritation, and difficult breathing. Prolonged exposure can cause nervous disorder, cardiac arrest, seizure, severe asthma, and premature death.
Furthermore, it is not the local people of Bukit Koman who will get rich out of this gold mining operation. Perhaps the only fitting place for such cyanide gold-mining is the Great Australian Desert. Or perhaps the locals in Putrajaya do not mind such a mining operation if gold is discovered in one of the lakes there?
The officials responsible who approved this mining project in Bukit Koman and its EIA report have made a wrong decision. A dead wrong decision. Period.
I would like to pay tribute to a great friend, Edward Hagedorn, the mayor of Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines. He does not allow any mining activities, logging, cyanide fishing, nor any form of gambling within his city jurisdiction. Yet, the more than 400,000 population in the city live in harmony, businesses are thriving, there is a low crime rate, a very clean environment, a pristine sea despite the city being also a port, tree planting becomes an annual festival, there are no beggars, a booming tourism industry, peaceful and harmonious coexistence of the Christians and Muslims.
Above all, Puerto Princesa won several UN environmental awards, and boasts having two World Heritage sites. Yours truly is honoured to have been invited to launch the ‘Zero Heart Attack Project by 2012’ in Puerto Princesa.
When asked in 2007 why he disallowed mining activities in his city, he answered, ‘I have traveled to many parts of the world. In all cities where mining operations occur, the local people are not the ones who get rich. The investors exploit the land, but leave behind diseases like TB and cancer’.
Are there any Malaysians, from among the government, equal to Edward Hagedorn?
The writer is president, Society of Natural Health, Malaysia and director, Dr Rath Health Foundation for South East Asia.