[KUALA LUMPUR] Malaysia, the biggest shipper of bauxite to China, will suspend mining for three months to prevent pollution of the environment, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Jaafarsaid.
The ban takes effect from Jan 15, Wan Junaidi told reporters. Exports will be allowed during the moratorium, reducing port inventories, and after the suspension the government will limit bauxite production to the country's capacity to ship the material, he said in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.
Malaysia supplied more than 40 per cent of China's imports of the aluminum-making raw material last year after Indonesia imposed a ban on shipments in January 2014. China produces about half the world's aluminum used in everything from aircraft to door frames and drink cans. The country's exports of the metal and its products surged 36 per cent in November from the previous month, helping push global prices down 19 per cent in 2015.
Red dust from trucks carrying bauxite to the port had blanketed roads, trees and plants, threatening air purity and water sources, according to Fuziah Salleh, the member of parliament for Kuantan, capital of Pahang, the main producing state. The government should suspend exports until proper laws are in place to ensure mining is sustainable and to curb illegal operations, she said by phone on Tuesday.
"Things are just out of control at the moment," Mr Fuziah said. "I'm very concerned that the damage may be irreversible."