As reported in Jakarta Post, Malaysia is preparing to lift a ban in March 2019 on bauxite mining that has been in place for three years, despite warnings the move may cause serious environmental damage.
After Indonesia banned exports in 2014, bauxite mining in Malaysia amplified to feed strong Chinese demand. But by 2015, following complaints that pits across the bauxite-rich state of Pahang were damaging the environment and health of those living in the vicinity of the mines, the Malaysian government imposed a ban.
Additional to the environmental and health complaints, critics of bauxite mining argued that most of the operations were illegal and “done amateurishly with no government oversight”.
Cited in local media, Xavier Jayakumar, water, land and natural resources minister, said the new government which took power last year has decided not to extend a moratorium which ends on 31 March 2019.
"Industry players can resume mining by April, but they must adhere to strict mining conditions," he told AFP, adding the move was to allow Pahang to earn crucial extra revenue.
The announcement will also allow the export of approximately 432,000 tonnes of high-grade bauxite currently stored at Kuantan port on the South China Sea.
Bauxite mining can release carcinogenic heavy metals such as strontium, caesium and other harmful substances, as well as low levels of radiation.
It is not clear whether the policy shift will lead to a new boom in bauxite mining in Malaysia, however, particularly as Indonesia started allowing exports again in 2017.