Thousands marched against cyanide use in gold mining

Thousands of environmentalists took the streets of Raub, in the Malaysian state of Pahang on Sunday, to oppose the use of cyanide at the nearby Bukit Koman gold mine, which they claim has been using the chemical compound to the detriment of their health.

Malaysia Chronicle reported that there were over 10,000 the demonstrators who gathered “spontaneously and voluntarily” flooding the streets of the country’s third largest in the country.

The newspaper added Raub residents have been opposing Peninsular Gold’s operations (LON:PGL), formerly Raub Australia Gold Mining, since 2007, but the local authorities have not heard their lawsuits and appeals.

“There are now two major hotspots in [the state of Pahang] that [the local government] must stand accountable for – the Lynas rare earth refinery and the Bukt Koman gold mine. If [the authorities] cannot manage their own home state, no wonder the federal government and the economy are going to the dogs,” politician Fuziah Salleh told Malaysia Chronicle.

Analyst Wong Chun Wai writes in his Sunday column at The Star, that realizing the growing emotional impact of environment issues on middle-class Malaysian voters, politicians are taking advantage of what it seems to be a hot topic.

“In the media, these issues rarely made the headlines and were often relegated to the features section,” he says. “But not any more. Environment issues have been upgraded to the front pages of newspapers and given prominent treatment in other media as well,” he adds.

This writer does not profess to be an expert in gold mining but we do know that “gold cyanidation” or “cyanide leach mining” is one of the more common ways used to extract gold from the surrounding rock.

As with all processes involving the use of lethal chemicals, there are health and environmental risks involved but there is still no conclusive evidence to settle the debate once and for all.

The town of Raub, a historic gold mining settlement, is located 110 km from the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur and 265 km from Pahang's capital, Kuantan.

Photo courtesy of MalaysiaKini via Facebook