Country’s oldest mining company denies involvement in Sungai Rui arsenic pollution

John Bunyan


Rahman Hydraulic Tin Sdn Bhd, which has been operating since 1907, is using a closed water circulation system where the water used in the mining operation is recycled. ― Pictures by Farhan Najib

PENGKALAN HULU, April 25 — Rahman Hydraulic Tin Sdn Bhd (RHT) Senior General Manager Madzlan Zam today said that the mining company never dumped “discharge water”, which contained arsenic chemical, into the rivers nearby here.

Madzlan said that the company, which has been operating since 1907, is using a closed water circulation system where the water used in the mining operation is recycled.

“The discharge water from the processing plant are placed in tailing ponds, which traps the waste. The waste here is the suspended soil and arsenic as the ore here contains the chemical.

“The clean water is then pumped back to the processing plants. We never dumped water into the rivers here, in fact, we do not have enough water to separate the ore and waste. That’s why we recycled the water,” he told reporters. 

Madzlan was responding to allegations that mining activities here had caused Sungai Rui to be polluted with arsenic poison.

Reports of arsenic chemical in Sungai Rui waters and allegations of skin cancer developing among the nearby populace was highlighted on April 4 by Perak Education, Science, Environment and Green Technology Committee chairman Abdul Aziz Bari during a press conference.

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu subsequently said the government has formed a task force to investigate the arsenic poisoning.

Ahmad Faizal said the task force met for the first time on March 25, following a report from the Department of Environment on pollution in the river a week earlier.

Ahmad Faizal confirmed the arsenic level of Sungai Rui was on the high side and temporarily suspended all logging activities along Sungai Rui, even as he acknowledged that authorities have yet to find any direct link.

Madzlan said that his company has conducted checks on two rivers, namely Sungai Kijang and Sungai Kepayang, which passes through the mining site and later connects to the Sungai Rui. 

The discharge water from the processing plant are placed in tailing ponds, which traps the waste.

He said his research team found that the arsenic level has already exceeded from the standard set by the Mineral and Geoscience Department even before entering the mining site.

“When we conducted checks on the entry point of the river waters, the arsenic level was already high at about 2.0.

“However, we are doing a ‘laundry job’ as we still treat the river waters using hydrated lime which bring down the arsenic level to 0.05 even though the water from the river is not contaminated by us,” he said.

Madzlan said the company uses 300,000 kilogrammes of hydrated lime per month that cost RM120,000 just to treat the river water.

“But, sadly when the river water streams down a bit further from our mining site the arsenic level increase again.

“This is possibly due to other activities surrounding the mining site such as forest clearing, agriculture, tin mining, old tailing and sand processing,” he said.

“Geologically, Pengkalan Hulu is located within the tin mineralisation belt, where arsenopyrite is found. When the land is cleared, there are no trees or plants to hold the soil from eroding into the river when it rains, which could have triggered the pollution,” he added.

RHT Senior General Manager Madzlan Zam explaining to reporters on the mining operation in Pengkalan Hulu.

Meanwhile, RHT’s senior mining engineer Mohd Azmizan Sulaiman said that the company has collaborated with Forest Research Institute Malaysia to rehabilitate the mined-out areas.

“All the area, including the tailing pond where the water contains arsenic will be rehabilitated into reforestation when the mine is closed.

“In fact, we have already started planting trees such as kayu putih, meranti, merawan and sungkai. The trees are growing fine and it could be a good source of revenue for the state government in the future,” he said.

* A previous version of this story contained errors which have since been corrected.

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