Malaysia likely to extend bauxite mining ban for three months or more

KUALA LUMPUR, March 7 (Reuters) - Malaysia is likely to extend its moratorium on bauxite mining for another three months or more as there is still runoff from bauxite stockpiles near a port that is contaminating coastal waters, the environment minister said on Tuesday.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar told Reuters in a text message he would make a recommendation to the cabinet, although that body would have the final say on the matter.

Malaysia’s largely unregulated bauxite mining industry in Kuantan, port capital of key bauxite producing state Pahang, ramped up output starting in 2014 to fill a supply gap after Indonesia banned exports and to meet demand from top aluminium producer China.

The frenetic pace of digging, however, led to a public outcry over water contamination and destruction of the environment.

In January last year, the government imposed its first three-month ban on mining of the commodity, extending it several times.

Wan Junaidi had said in February that he was not inclined to lift the moratorium yet as heavy rains had caused bauxite runoff and further contamination.

Reporting by Emily Chow; Editing by Tom Hogue