Friday, June 26, 2009

Raub, Pahang : Gold for me, cyanide for you...

"It is possible for cyanide to leak during the transfer if sufficient precautions are not taken. And if that happens, water supplies in the Klang Valley will be affected" - Tan Hui Chun (Environment and safety consultant)
"Hasil kajian Kementerian Kesihatan mengenai tahap kesihatan
penduduk sekitar kawasan itu, menunjukkan tiada kesihatan penduduk terjejas akibat bahan kimia sianida." - T Muruhiah (Timbalan Menteri, Jabatan Perdana Menteri)
  1. Zorro unmasked started probing on this a few weeks back and Malaysiakini reported on 25th June 2009 that Murugiah announced that the health of 3,000 residents of Bukit Koman, Raub is not in danger of cyanide poisoning. That is fast when Bernama broke the news on 23rd June 2009 quoting Murugiah's pledge that he will investigate the matter.
  2. I didn't say this but I remember in one movie...
    "Look, I don't know shit about shit but I know right from wrong!" - Erin Brockovich
  3. Just because Bukit Koman's residents are simple folks in out of town Raub does not give the license for Raub Australian Gold Mining Sdn Bhd (RAGM) to do what they pleased.
  4. The residents had listed their complaints of :-
    • Cyanide-like odour in the place;
    • Headaches, breathing difficulties and skin irritation;
    • noise pollution etc
  5. Now, let us go back to the reports and see what Murugiah said. On noise, Jabatan Alam Sekitar (JAS) reported that they measure noise produce by RAGM at 48.7 Db which is lower the allowed 55 Db.
  6. Let's say that the readings are correct. When is the readings taken? Is RAGM operating at normal production during the readings? How far are the sound meters placed? Is it aimed at the source (noise) ? What is the height of the meter? Who witness the tests? Are the results independently verified ? Are the sound meters calibrated?
  7. On cyanide issue, this is no joking matter. Cambodia and Vietnam have cases of cyanide poisoning in rivers where the effects is 10 years down the line. In certain parts of Cambodia, the natural cyanide caused cancer since there is no proper water treatment system.
  8. In history, there is questions whether Napoleon Bonarparte died of arsenic poisoning. Even in Malaysia, the one time Deputy Prime Minister also accused someone of administering him with cyanide poisoning. What this tells you is that cyanide poisoning is difficult to detect and if it happens in Bukit Koman, what hope is there that the authorities will trace down the culprits? The most taht will be done will be mass relocation of the population on some pretentious issue like SARS, maybe?
  9. About headache, the report mentioned that 93 are sampled and out of 93 samplings, 6 claimed headache. That will be 6.5%. Is that normal for Malaysians? Is it a normal standard? If it is, then all is well and fine. If not, then what has the Jabatan Kesihatan has to say about it? Is it their diet? Is it their style of living? Is it the air? Is it the water? If this is an issue, then investigate the root cause. Saying that it is normal and acceptable limit must be validated with data. You just can't say it's OK when it's not!!
  10. Another blogger, Antares mentioned that one of the important share holder is a Pahang VVIP. To this scribe, everybody needs to make a living. But it must be honest living. Putting a VVIP in the board does not absolve the company from its social responsibilities. In fact, companies with VVIP shareholders should be more responsible than responsible. They are supposed to be the model companies in terms of social responsibilities and sensitive to the surounding needs and problems.
  11. Touching on social responsibilities, the Bukit Koman issue should be closely monitored by Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM). Is SAM aware of RAGM? Is SAM aware of the EIA? What is SAM's stand on this? If SAM has been persistently monitoring the EIA reports for the Pahang-Selangor water tunnel project, then SAM should be equally persistent in monitoring Bukit Koman issue.
  12. It is always been the case of Malaysian authorities. When a project is new, it will always come up with proposals on waste disposal and monitoring. A case of example is the Tioxide plant in Terengganu. International companies will be presenting the authorities with sophisticated plans on how they dispose toxic waste, how they manage toxic waste, how they store toxic waste etc etc. On paper, it will be the best, the most innovative, the most up to date at par with world's standard. In practise? Who will monitor the waste disposal? Who verify their management system? Who recorded their toxic waste storage? This is more so critical for Bukit Koman residents as Bukit Koman is way too rural to be noticed. There, RAGM may be "king" to do what they please.
  13. Planning and executing are 2 different things. RAGM may have the best plannings, but who will monitor their planning and execution? RAGM may claim that they have safety officers under them but paid safety officers may be subject to the whims and fancies of RAGM.
  14. Remember Lubok Mandi? During the "gold rush" fever, some died when their makeshift tunnels collapsed. That was a tragedy but in was instant. You can see and watch it. Here in Bukit Koman, arsenic poisoning is slow and sure. It will not be instantaneous. It will be slow and painful. So my qquestion - who will monitor RAGM's activities? Will it be on regular monitoring? Will it be done by independent third parties? Will it be carried out by JAS? Frankly, this scribe is suspicious of government authorities because with "kopi", everything jadi.....
  15. Murugiah should not be too fast in declaring Bukit Koman as safe. It needs continous monitoring. Do we have the expertise? Do we have the labs? Do we follow international standards?
  16. To be fair to Murugiah, he did called for special hearing on 25th June 2009 but none of ukit Koman residents turned up. The reason given by the residents is that they have a prior engagement with other parties, set up 1 month ago and Muru's hearing was called last minute. The residents claimed that they have called to explain their absence.
  17. Gold mining in Bukit Koman is fine but we surely hope that Bukit Koman will not hit international news as a kampung devastated by arsenic poisoning. That said, can Murugiah guarantees no arsenic poisoning in Bukit Koman for at least another 8 years? Heck, I don't think Murugiah can give the assurance because he may be gone from PM's department soon if Kayveas get his way. If Kayveas fails to oust Murugiah from PM's department, maybe the rakyat will when GE 13 comes around....
Till then...G'nite M'sia...wherever u are...


Fi-sha said...

Dear Sir

I chanced upon this letter as published in Malaysiakini in 04/06/2009 here :

If the writer claimed that it is not as dangerous as it seems, could we get his advice on this matter further?

I spent 5 formative years in Raub and it is such a lovely place - green lungs all over you can feel the mist on your skin every morning. So, I am concerned of what happened.

Let's go Erin Brokovich way then if all the facts about cyanide and arsenic poisoning fell on deaf ears.

Let's hope our experts from local universities could take this challenge and provide findings that could shed some truths.

The state government should get consensus from the people living around the mining wells before granting approval to RGAM to conduct the mining activities.

I really hope conscience prevails

nightcaller said...


I hava a friend in Raub and when I asked him this afternoon, he confirmed about the smell and he dismissed Muru's statement as pure lies.

I will try to get another opinion regarding the matter before we go Erin's way...

juntan said...

Hi Nightcaller & Fi-Sha,

Thanks for your posting and concerns. All Malaysian deserved greener and safer living place.

SAM has been actively assisting the BK villagers since 2 years ago, including technical and legal assistant. The anti-cyanide committee will continue the legal battle and have appeal the case on 9/6/09.

The last water sampling gathered in May 09 at the mining waste water pond has shown cyanide level of 0.03mg/l (Limit is 0.05mg/l at water catchment area under Malaysia law; but way above recommended permissible level set by the US Environment Protection Agency that is below 0.2ppm ). If 3 months cyanide gold mining operation can accumulate this concentration, can’t imaging the damage in 1-2 years time, if RAGM continually don’t take any action on the cyanide detoxification process (According to their EIA Report, they are recycling the water in a so call “closed-circuit” operation).

Repeated statement found in the Admission Document submitted to London Stock Exchange by Peninsular Gold Ltd (the parent company of RAGM) dated 17 June 2005, that cyanide detoxification MAY NOT be required for its operation in Malaysia particularly at the Bukit Koman site. To quote directly from the document, section reads,

“…informed by Peninsular that cyanide destruction is not required by either the local authority, or the lender. Provision has been made in the capital cost for a detoxification plant, although its operating cost has not been included as it may not be required”.
(Imprima de Bussy, 2005)

This is an environmental issue that involves public interest. I urge RAGM to demonstrate their social responsible by allowing independent parties to assess the validity of the claims by RAGM that its mining operation including the use and disposal of cyanide has been conducted in full compliance with all prescribed legislation of Malaysia and other applicable international guidelines, and also sign the International Cyanide Management Code.

Tan Hui Chun

ahoo said...

Whoever said that " it is safe " with cyanide mining etc, let us the sane ones, insist that they stay right there within the vicinity for a month for them to walk the talk. No point talking or expalining it away as these people in high offices are just speaking from the wrong
" hole " !

Talk is cheap as it doesn't involve the daily danger of facing the unhealthy air, potential water poisoning and a lifetime health hazard by continuing to stay there.
Where else can the kampong folks go beside their current homes ? In the name of development, let us not neglect the issue of people's health and hazardous discharge from this mining activity.

nightcaller said...

Dear Juntan and ahoo

It is important for the goldmine to be monitored, not to find faults but for the villagers safety. Cyanide poisoning does not happen overnight. In Cambodia, the effect of cyanide in water were only detected after 10 years.

Ng Yen Yen in her statement claimed that she has attended the problem 3 years ago. BUt she forgets to say that 3 years ago, is RAGB operational 3 years ago? What are the steps taken by RAGN to monitor the discharge? What are the steps taken to ensure that there is no spillage? To what standard is RAGN adhering to?

Ng Yen Yen can call the cientist in but there is difference between theories and practical. Are the scientist commenting on RAGB's operational model? Or based on ideal conditions? Did the scientist comes up with on-site results? What is the duration of monitoring? What are the changes, if any? What is the projected changes?

It is easy to paint beautiful pictures when the plant is brand new. The problem starts when regular maintenance is not properly carried out. It is not the plant that is defective but the combination of human empathy, plant breakdown etc contributes to possible syanide poisoning.

The best method is preventive maintenance. What is RAGB's preventive maintenance plans? Has it been openly tabled and discussed with independent third party?

It is not a matter of opposition parties or governing parties. It is a matter of human concern. Right now, Bukit KOman residents need to be assured that cyanide poisoning will not be happening there. Ng Yen Yen is taking an easy way out by addressing the present situation when what we want is the assurance of future safety and eliminating the possibility of cyanide poisoning.

Is it too much to ask?

Anonymous said...

write to all australian newspapers to publicly shame the company

nightcaller said...

Anon 8:27 pm

My question - why do we need to shame the company? Is it because it is mining for gold ot is it because the company is not following the accepted standards in dispensing highly poisonous chemicals?

If it is because of the former, then we are acting unfairly against the company. If it is because of the latter, is it because the company purposely failed to take the necessary procedures to control poisonous waste or is it because our regulations are not following acceptable international standards.

I would rather stick to strict monitoring and to ensure that the company has sound proof procedures to eliminate any poisonous cyanide (either in gaseous or liquid or solid form) from entering the environment which may result in health problems in years to come.
For monitoring purpose, independent together with govt agencies and the company's reps shall be working together for meaningful monitoring system.

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