* Malaysia extends moratorium to Dec. 31, fom Sept. 14
* Says may extend moratorium if stocks not cleared by year
(Adds comment, detail, background)
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 7 Malaysia extended a
moratorium on bauxite mining to the end of the year, from Sept.
14, and said the government could stretch the ban by another six
months if the current high stockpiles of the aluminium-making
commodity were not cleared by Dec. 31.
Malaysia's largely unregulated bauxite mining industry has
boomed in the past two years to meet demand from top aluminium
producer China, filling in a supply gap after Indonesia banned
exports. But the frenetic pace of digging has led to a public
outcry with many complaining of water contamination and
destruction of the environment.
Late last year, bauxite mining was blamed for turning the
waters and seas red near Kuantan, the capital of Malaysia's
third-largest state and key bauxite producer Pahang, following
which, in January, the government imposed its first three-month
ban on mining the commodity.
Despite extensions to the moratorium, 4.13 million tonnes of
stockpiles remain uncleared in three sites around Kuantan,
Malaysia's environment minister said on Wednesday.
"If come Dec. 31 and the stockpiles are not cleared, I'm
going to ask for (another) six months moratorium," Wan Junaidi
Tuanku Jaafar, Malaysia's natural resources and environment
minister, said at a press conference.
China imported nearly 24 million tonnes of bauxite from
Malaysia last year, its top supplier then. But Malaysia's
bauxite exports to China have slipped since the moratorium,
falling to 5.4 million tonnes over January to July, or only
about half of the volumes shipped a year ago.
The extended mining ban will give industry players and
authorities time to comply with improved regulations and take
steps to mitigate pollution across the mining and export supply
chain, the environment ministry said in a statement.
(Reporting by Liz Lee, Writing by Emily Chow; Editing by Himani