Narrowing the gap between local standards and global best practices inbauxite mining

A case study in Malaysia

Document identifier:
Access full text here:10.1016/j.resourpol.2020.101636
Keyword: Engineering and Technology, Materials Engineering, Metallurgy and Metallic Materials, Teknik och teknologier, Materialteknik, Metallurgi och metalliska material, Sustainable mining, Bauxite, Malaysia, Economic, Environmental and social impacts, Bauxite mining SOP, Mineral Processing, Mineralteknik
Publication year: 2020
Relevant Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
SDG 12 Responsible consumption and production
The SDG label(s) above have been assigned by


In mining the concept of sustainable development often encounters a paradoxical meaning as numerous mines in the past have closed due to exhausted amounts of ores. Despite the paradox, sustainable development and mining can be made compatible, if mining activities are carried out responsibly and sustainably. This holds true especially in the developing world where illegal and unregulated mining is still being practiced. In Malaysia, annual production of bauxite ore increased drastically from 208,770 tonnes in 2013, to 962,799 tonnes in 2014. The increase stemmed primarily from Indonesia banning exports of bauxite in 2014 to boost its own aluminium smelting industry. This led China to suffer low bauxite supply to meet its national aluminium production demand. Subsequently, mining companies flocked to the hills around Kuantan, Malaysia which host large amounts of low-grade bauxite where the ore is procured and exported to China via seaway. The immediate spike in bauxite production came with environmental and health consequences for residents due to unregulated rampant mining. Consequently, the authorities imposed a temporary moratorium on bauxite mining from Jan 15, 2016 with exceptions for exports of stockpiled bauxite. As a result, production in 2016 dropped to 342,924 tonnes from a peak of 7,164,956 tonnes in 2015. After extending the moratorium nine times, the government announced recently that there would be no further extension and mining could resume in April 2019 with new standard operating procedures (SOP). This work analyses the gap between local standards and global best practices and discovers a disconnect between the two, largely centred around the area of environmental management and performance. The work also elucidates the weaknesses in the current SOP and strategies are proposed to resolve these shortcomings. Recommendations are made to bring Malaysian bauxite mining practices to international standards by stressing on improved sustainability indicators, policy provisions and data transparency.


Seng How Kuan

Department of Mechanical and Material Engineering, Lee Kong Chian Faculty of Engineering and Science, Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman, Kajang, Selangor, Malaysia
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Yousef Ghorbani

Luleå tekniska universitet; Mineralteknik och metallurgi
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Sylvia Chieng

Faculty of Science and Technology, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Bangi, Selangor, Malaysia
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