Bukit Koman: 10 Reasons Why We Protest Against the Use of Cyanide In the Gold Mine Operation

Why you should support the residents come 2nd Sept, 2012 at Raub, Pahang. See: Himpunan Hijau Raub 902: Take action now or never!

1. Residents Are At High Risk To Become The Victims Of Hazardous Materials.

Within a month after the Raub Australian Gold Mine (RAGM) started its operation in Feb 2009, more than 300 residents from nearby villages were medically reported to be suffering from illnesses including skin rashes, red and watery eyes, throat irritation, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, dizziness and other signs and symptoms of health problems.

A random survey covering households in the area (up to two km radius area from the RAGM plant) was conducted in May 2012 based on a standardized questionnaire. Survey results show about 50% of the residents suffer from skin diseases and eye irritation. Another 40% of the respondents had coughing issues. These results suggest the presence of airborne irritants affecting these respondents. There were eight cases of cancer among the respondents. Unspecific complaints such as giddiness and lethargy were also high at about 35%.

Both health monitoring and survey results showed the residents’ health are at high risk after being exposed to chronic airborne irritants.

2. Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) and Hydrogen Cyanide (HCN) Pollutants Have Exceeded the Permitted Limits.

Air quality was monitored by measuring devices bought by the residents. It indicated that up till 7/8/2011:

Sulphur dioxide: Detected 0.3- 47.66ppm of SO2 (according to EPA-USA requirements, the industrial safety limit of SO2 shall not exceed 0.3ppm, and should not to be exceeded more than four times in a calendar year in a residential area. However, in a period of nine months, the monitored results exceeded the limit 33 times. The highest SO2 detected, i.e. 47.6ppm exceeds the safety limit by 150 times.

Hydrogen cyanide: Detection of 0.3-30ppm (occasionally) of HCN (industrial safety limit is exposure of 20ppm HCN for few hours), can cause various poisonous related diseases and can be lethal.

3. Raub Australian Gold Mine (RAGM) is just NEXT TO the residence area. This is the nearest distance of gold mining operation to a residential area found in the world.

There is no buffer zone between the gold mine that uses cyanide and the residential area.

4. Large Usage of Hazardous Chemicals.

Large amounts of hazardous chemicals were used annually:

  • 400 tons of sodium cyanide used annually averaging 1.5 tons a day. (A little amount of 100-200mg NaCN is enough to put a person unconscious in ten seconds and could take a life in a minute); and
  • 131.4 tons of sulphur dioxide used annually.

5. RAGM failed to fulfill the international safety standards. It is not the signatory of International Cyanide Management Code (ICMC).

Dr. Glenn C. Miller, an environmental chemist from USA who specializes in cyanide mining had performed an on-site investigation in February 2008 and released a report in 29th May in the same year. The report disclosed that:

  • The design of the gold mine operation and waste disposal treatment was found inadequate and it failed to fulfill the international safety standards. The tailing contained heavy metal and acidic waste, and could cause metal-cyanide contamination. This would severely pollute the underground water; and
  • The gold mine company claimed that they are complying with international safety standards but failed to indicate which international standards. Moreover, the official website of International Cyanide Management Code indicates that the company did not sign the code nor complied with the standards and the operational codes (Dr. Glenn C. Miller is one of the committee members of ICMC).

6. RAGM Did Not Announce The Waste And Air Treatment Procedure And The Environmental Management Plan.

In the 1997 Preliminary Environmental Impact Assessment (PEIA) report, RAGM suggested storing the tailings that contained cyanide and other hazardous waste in the open pit area created by mining thus using the dumping back method.

No clear statement was issued on the waste treatment and detoxification procedure to prevent the hazardous tailing from being drained and contaminating the underground water. Up to date, RAGM has failed to answer any queries related to this hazardous tailing disposal treatment.

There are 12 three-storey high open tanks that contain processing fluid in operation every day. The hazardous gas (e.g. HCN and SO2) can vaporizes and spread as far as five km.  The polluted air will cause acid rain that causes serious health consequences and leaching into groundwater or nearby surface water, polluting the water source.

RAGM did not respond to the request to announce its Environmental Management Plan that details their environmental controls. RAGM also refuses to publicly report the water quality and air quality monitoring results.

7. RAGM is using Cyanide extraction process which is banned by many developed countries.

Cyanide extraction method is banned in many countries such as: Germany, Turkey, Romania, Greece, Honduras, and Argentina. In certain parts of the USA, cyanide extraction method is also banned in the federated states of Colorado, Wisconsin and Montana.

Most of the environmental protection agencies all over the world have banned the cyanide extraction process.

8. RAGM did NOT declare its Emergency Response Plan.

Under the CIMAH (1996) regulation, when producing or using more than 20 tons of sulphur dioxide (SO2), it is the manufacturer’s obligation to prepare an off-site emergency plan for the area surrounding the site. It is the duty of manufacturer to supply appropriate information to the concerned public without the public having to request for it. The information will include the hazards and risks of the chemicals, the nature of a major accident including its potential effects on the population and the environment, and how the population will be warned and kept informed in the event of an accident or emergency with regards to the method to evacuate.

However, RAGM (that uses more than 130 tons of SO2) has failed to engage local residents up till now despite many attempts by the community to request for information.

Furthermore, any forms of explanation and clarification sessions held by invited experts have been prevented by the police.

9. No Level of Cyanide is Safe.

The cyanide leakage incidents have brought environment disasters and catastrophes all around the world.

The most severe cyanide contamination case happened in Romania on 30th January, 2000. A major leak and spillage from a gold mine reservoir, released more than 100 thousand cubic meter of cyanide-rich chemical contaminated waste water into the environment. The contaminants travelled via tributaries into the Somes & Tisza rivers and finally into the Danube river before reaching the Black Sea. Affected areas reached as wide into Romania, Hungry, and Yugoslavia. Two thousands meter square of the Danube River was found contaminated after this incident. The residents living along the river side were put at lethal risk.

10. RAGM Did Not Include Cyanide Detoxification in Its Operating Cost.

Repeated statements found in the admission document submitted to London Stock Exchange by Peninsular Gold Ltd (the parent company of RAGM) dated 17 June 2005, stated that cyanide detoxification MAY NOT be required for its operation in Bukit Koman site and would not been included in the operating costs as the cyanide detoxification is not required by the local authority.

This is an offence of the Malaysia Environmental Quality Act requirements, that RAGM does not include any funding and provisions in terms of cyanide leaking and recovery of environmental pollution.


Acknowledgements: Hue Shue Li (Resident of Bukit Koman), Bukit Koman Ban Cyanide in Gold Mining Action Committee.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BanCyanideInGoldMining

Related articles:

Himpunan Hijau Raub 902: Take action now or never!

Bukit Koman: Ban Cyanide in Gold Mining

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Posts by Sze Ming

Sze Ming is a nature lover who grew up enjoying the paddy fields in Kedah. Green warrior, she believes going green is the only way for longer lives. Currently she doing her Master of Public Policy in University Malaya. Tweets @szeming87

Posted on 30 August 2012. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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2 Responses to Bukit Koman: 10 Reasons Why We Protest Against the Use of Cyanide In the Gold Mine Operation

  1. I have been found of reading books and articles on different topics to enhance my knowledge about this universe. You have posted a wonderful and full of knowledge article. I have acquired a lot of knowledge from this article. This article is very important to me. Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge with us. Please keep it up with new updates and stay blessed.

  2. Who needs 10 reasons? Cyanide is one of the most toxic things known to man, period. Even the prospect of digging up tons of gold should never be enough reason to risk the lives of literally everything in the area.