RAUB (Oct 17, 2010): THE RAGM mine commenced using a carbon-in-leach (CIL) technology in 2007 to extract gold from old mining deposits, also known as tailings.
As cyanide readily bonds with gold, it is used at hundreds of mines around the world to extract gold.
At RAGM, the dug out soil, which is bonded with the minute grains of gold ore, is put through a series of open vats and mixed with water, sodium cyanide, liquid oxygen, carbon, hydrogen peroxide, lime, unslaked lime, and hydrochloric acid.
Thereafter, the cyanide solution and gold are separated.
The remaining cyanide-mud slush is restored to a safe level and then put into the tailings pond.
According to mine Technical Chief Operating Officer Laurie Mann, the remaining cyanide is in such a small dose that is dissipates.
"While cyanide can be dangerous, we spend a lot of time and money to ensure the process is completely safe," he said.
Dr Glenn Miller, an expert on the impact of chemicals used in mines, said that the 1996 EIA was inadequate.
"These documents did not accurately describe the proposed mine, and, in fact some aspects were apparently changed in a significant manner, including the method of tailings disposal, as well as the location of several of the mine components.
"The documents did not meet international or US standards and would not have been accepted in most jurisdictions."
Miller believes the EIA should start again and RAGM should sign the International Cyanide Management Code.
"In one of the documents I reviewed, the mine proponent indicated that they would abide by the Cyanide Code.
"Unless the mining company is a signatory of the Code, the assertion of abiding by the Code is meaningless."
Mann said the RAGM mine follows guidelines outlined in the Cyanide Code but it would be another four to five years before it ratified the code.
Miller’s strongest criticism was the lack of information from RAGM and the regulatory agencies.
"Because a list of the chemicals and the amount used is not provided, it is effectively impossible to know if any of the chemicals used at the site have had an impact on the surrounding community."
Miller said the RAGM mine is the most "hidden" project he has ever reviewed.
"In my experience over nearly 30 years with mines, the practice of not releasing information correlates with increased problems in the years ahead.
"When something goes wrong in a secretive mining operation, the public is less likely to know about it, and improvements and changes in practices are less likely to occur.
"Also in my experience, mining companies also are subject to less damaging criticism when they are open with information and have good communication with the surrounding residents.
"In the case of the Raub mine with residents immediately around the borders of the mine, communication is critical to maintaining good public relations and a healthy operating environment."
Miller also was surprised by the "threatening stance" he alleges RAGM took towards him.
"Rather than invite citizens of Bukit Koman to visit the site when I was there, they had a rather rotund guard follow us around the community on a motor scooter as we travelled from place to place."
When Kam was asked about these "watchdogs", he suggested Dr Miller went to Raub with presuppositions about the mine.
"Would you let someone into your home who has already made up their mind before seeing the facts?"
On its visit theSun, accompanied by residents and their lawyers, were tailed on a public road next to the RAGM mine. A mine personnel copied down the number plate of our vehicle and followed us on a motorcycle until we left the vicinity.
The state government has not returned emails requesting information on whether the Environment, Health, Minerals and Geoscience departments are conducting checks and doing reports as suggested by Pahang Local Government, Environment and Health exco Datuk Hoh Khai Mun back in May last year.
He had said that geologists will check the mining site every week and every three months, a medical team will carry out health inspections on residents, as well as take water samples from the area.Residents claim this is not being done. -- theSun