* Year-old ban to be extended by another 3 months
* Minister also says may be illegal bauxite mining
* Bauxite industry has been blamed for damage to environment
(Adds comment, detail)
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 22 Malaysia on Thursday
extended a moratorium on bauxite mining by three months, from
the start of 2017, to allow remaining stockpiles of the
aluminium-making commodity to be cleared.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi
Tuanku Jaafar also said that high stockpiles, nearly a year
after the ban was first imposed, suggested illegal mining may
have been carried out.
"There's an indication that there is illegal mining going
on, otherwise there would be no heap (of bauxite)," Wan Junaidi
told a press conference.
About 2.95 million tonnes of stockpiles remain around
Kuantan, the capital of the key bauxite producing state of
Pahang, he said. Kuantan had 3.6 million tonnes of stocks in
Malaysia's largely unregulated bauxite mining industry had
boomed over the last two years to meet demand from top aluminium
producer China, filling in a supply gap after Indonesia banned
But the frenetic pace of digging led to a public outcry with
many complaining of water contamination and destruction of the
In January, the government imposed its first three-month ban
on mining the commodity, before extending it multiple times.
Wan Junaidi said that any mining firms operating illegally
might be granted permission to extract bauxite in the future if
they applied for proper permits from the state government.
During the ban, Malaysia had exported 5.3 million tonnes of
bauxite, he said, just a quarter of the 20 million tonnes
shipped to China between January and November 2015.
(Reporting by Liz Lee; Writing by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by
Christian Schmollinger and Joseph Radford)