Gov't to fill old mining pools after drowning of three


Modified 6 Feb 2017, 1:56 am

The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry will be compelling all bauxite operators in Pahang to fill up and fence up disused bauxite mining ponds as well as install warning signboards around the areas.

Its minister, Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, said the move was being taken in the wake of the incident where three children drowned in a disused bauxite mining pond in Taman Sungai Karang Jaya near Kuantan on Saturday.

"I hope the mine operators will see that these steps are taken while the ministry seeks a way to compel all mine operators to fulfil these requirements in future," he said in a statement in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Wan Junaidi said he had also directed the Mineral and Geoscience Department director-general to check on all disused mines in Kuantan to ensure that the necessary actions were immediately taken.

He said the ministry viewed the tragedy seriously and hoped that those responsible including mine developers would take immediate action as instructed by the Regent of Pahang, Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah.

Earlier, in Lundu, Sarawak, Wan Junaidi had said that it was important to identify all disused mining sites which were a potential danger to the local community.

He said it would not be easy to implement the preventive measures as not all sites were on government property as some were located on land owned by an individual or company.

Wan Junaidi was speaking to reporters after visiting the media centre for the Tanjong Datu by-election at the Lundu District Council Training Room.

'Protests ignored'

In Kuantan, residents of Taman Sungai Karang Jaya expressed disappointment with the authorities concerned for not taking heed of their plight to discontinue bauxite mining activities there, as the site was close to the housing estate.

They said their protests were completely ignored until the federal government imposed a moratorium on bauxite mining in Pahang at the beginning of last year.

Their spokesperson Tengku Sharizal Tengku Zahari, who has been living in the area since 2006, said he hoped that quick action would be taken to fill up the disused mining pools to prevent further loss of lives.

Meanwhile, a check by Bernama yesterday saw a crowd of curious onlookers at the scene of the tragedy following the wide media media coverage on it.

On Saturday, in an attempt to retrieve a pair of pants which had fallen into the disused mining pool, three children including two siblings drowned in the pool.

The victims were siblings Salsabila Zuhairi, 12, Mahathir Mohamad, seven, and their friend, Nureen Ain Juwita Mohd Sharif, 10.

Mines death traps

The drowning is not the first such incident.

A similar incident occurred in Oct 2015, in which Nabil Ariff Shaari,14, drowned while swimming in a pool of a bauxite mine in Ladang Makmur, Bukit Goh.

The only difference is the three children who died did not go for a swim.

It occurred when Salsabila Zuhairi,12, fell into the pond and drowned while trying to retrieve the pants of her brother, Mohamad Aiman Hakimi,10.

A friend, Nureen Ain Juwita Mohd Sharif,10, and another brother, Mahathir Mohamad Zuhairi,7, tried to help, but were swallowed by the 'red water.'

The question is for how long will the pools left by illegal miners after the moratorium imposed by the government early last year, will continue to trap victims.

This is because there are many more pools left uncovered, making them 'death traps' if immediate action is not taken by the authorities.

Bernama had on Jan 20 last year published exclusive reports on bauxite mines that have become death traps.

Kampung Bukit Kubang Badak and Taman Satelit have 40 hectares of mining area and heaps of soil and pools up to 20 metres deep which are not covered.

Stop Bauxite Pollution People's Movement (Geram) chairperson Ali Akbar Othman and Natural Heritage Protection Association Malaysia (Peka) president Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil said on Saturday the tragedy would not have happened if the protest by residents against bauxite mining had been taken into account.

- Bernama