Bauxite pollution will lead to health woes in later years: Malaysian health minister

PUTRAJAYA - Bauxite mining in Pahang should be stopped altogether if the industry cannot prevent it from polluting the river, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subra­maniam.

He said there were definite health risks caused by bauxite-related pollution, but the hazards were long term and will take time to manifest.

"If you are exposed to bauxite pollution today, it does not mean you will suffer tomorrow. It might take years before the effect is felt," said Dr Subramaniam after delivering his New Year's address to ministry staff yesterday.

"But in this issue, the most important aspect is that our rivers must not be polluted," he said.

"It would be challenging for mine operators to prevent the excess materials produced by bauxite mining from entering the river

"If the river becomes polluted, then my view is bauxite mining should not be allowed at all."

Dr Subramaniam also urged the public not to drink water from the bauxite-polluted river even if the water had been boiled.

"It is not about killing germs but the dangerous minerals it contains," he said, adding that the public should also avoid consuming fish from the contaminated rivers.

He, however, gave an assurance that treated water in Pahang was safe for consumption.

"The ministry will continue to monitor for any sort of pollution in treated water. So far, it is safe."

Health deputy director-general Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman said the ministry was still awaiting a chemical analysis report on the health effects of bauxite on humans and marine life.

Bauxite mining in Pahang has become a contentious issue due to the level of pollution the industry has caused in the state.