KUALA LUMPUR, June 11 – Senator Husam Musa questioned today why an illegal manganese mine was still operating after 14 Orang Asli from a nearby village in Gua Musang reportedly died from a respiratory infection.
The Amanah politician said up to last night, heavy machinery was still located at the site that is reportedly 2km away from the Kuala Koh village where more than half of residents, or 99 people including two confirmed deaths from pneumonia, were sickened by a respiratory infection.
“I hope that the Kelantan government will do something and federal government agencies won’t keep quiet as far as their duties and responsibilities are concerned,” Husam said in a statement.
“This mine was not sealed off as it should have been as an illegal mine. This is the nearest mine to the Kuala Koh Orang Asli settlement. Two rivers flow from here.”
The senator said whether or not pollution from the mine had caused the deaths of the Orang Asli was beside the point as enforcers should still act on unlicensed operations.
The Star reported Water, Land, and Natural Resources Minister Tengku Zulpuri Shah Raja Puji as saying that the manganese mine’s operating license expired in 2017.
“They have a mining licence from the state … but they need both licences to continue operations,” he was quoted saying. “That mine should be closed.”
Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said yesterday that health authorities have yet to identify the cause of the respiratory infection in Kuala Koh, Gua Musang, where the Bateq tribe resides.
Kelantan Deputy Mentri Besar Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah disputed allegations that contaminated drinking water from mining activity had sickened the Orang Asli in Kuala Koh, highlighting the state health department’s report that pneumonia is an airborne disease.
According to the American Lung Association, pneumonia can be caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses and fungi in the air.