KUANTAN: For over a year since Jan 15 2016, lorries plying the main roads traversing Bukit Kuantan and Bukit Goh here, transporting valuable bauxite from stockpiles there to be exported at the Kuantan Port.
However since Aug 12 when the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) seized 10 million tonnes of bauxite stockpiles throughout Pahang, the reddish-stained lorries have since disappeared from the roads.
For Gerakan Hentikan Pencemaran Bauksit (Geram) chairman Ali Akhbar Othman, the absence of bauxite-laden lorries on the roads was a full vindication of their claims that illegal bauxite-mining was taking place even during the moratorium period.
On Jan 15 last year, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry had imposed a moratorium on fresh-mining of the aluminium ore, only stockpile clearing activities were allowed where lorries would transport the mineral to be exported at Kuantan Port.
Ali pointed out that ever since Aug 12, the environmental non-governmental organisation (NGO) stopped receiving reports from residents of any movement of bauxite-laden lorries coming and going at known stockpile locations at Bukit Goh, Bukit Kuantan, and Jabor.
"The seizure by MACC succeeded in deterring further activities (related to fresh bauxite-mining) which had been going on since last year," he said.
He pointed out that despite the moratorium coming into effect on Jan 15 last year, certain miners had flagrantly flouted the prohibition by conducting fresh mining especially at night.
"Since Aug 12, we have not received any reports on bauxite-movement (by lorries)," he said, adding that the lorries previously involved in bauxite-related activities are now instead transporting rocks from quarries among others.
"We are not against bauxite-mining in general but are against mining which goes against standard operating procedures meant to protect the environment," he said.
Referring to the MACC's success in putting a stop to illegal bauxite-mining activities, he urged the various government agencies such as the state Land and Mines Office (PTG), the state Road Transport Department (RTD) and the police to strengthen cooperation to stamp out any further unlawful mining.
"A long term solution is needed to tackle this problem," he said, explaining that the MACC seizure can only be considered a short-term solution at the moment.
On the MACC contention that there are 10 million tonnes of bauxite stockpiles throughout Kuantan, he said the figure is plausible, adding that there are at least between 5 and 7 million tonnes of bauxite stockpiled here.
"However this is hard for us (Geram) to verify as we could not enter the bauxite stockpile areas now," he said, adding that not only are the stockpiles located deep in the oil palm plantation but that the entry points themselves are now barricaded and guarded.
When asked who guards the entry points, he answered the guards are people hired by the mining operators themselves.
When contacted, the state MACC director Datuk Alias Salim indicated that so far there had not been any attempts by any parties to remove the bauxite from the stockpile areas.
He also confirmed that they would continue to monitor the sites to ensure miners and other related parties abide by the seizure order and obey the law.
Meanwhile, a 49-year-old resident of Bukit Goh confirmed that no lorries were seen transporting bauxite ever since the MACC seized the stockpiles.
Clearly happy with the authorities' decision, the woman, who declined to be identified, said that the MACC decision put a clear stop to any suspected fresh-mining activities that had been ongoing since early last year.
"The road (linking Bukit Goh and Bukit Kuantan) is now completely bare of lorries carrying bauxite," said the resident, who works in a shop strategically located on the road between the various entry points to the stockpiled bauxite deep in the oil palm plantation.
She noted that unlike the moratorium, the mining operators are clearly afraid to go against the MACC seizure order.
Checks on social media only unearthed photographs of bauxite-laden lorries traversing roads here dating from before Aug 12, indicating the sudden stop in bauxite-related activities since the MACC seizure.