Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar did not rule out the possibility that illegal bauxite mining activities had taken place during the moratorium period, which began almost a year ago.

He said this was based on the fact that the bauxite stockpile had not shown any significant decline, and also based on his 40-minute aerial observation in the district today.

"I'm very confident that illegal mining operation had taken place because during the aerial observation on all mines, we can still see a lot of bauxite stockpiles despite not seeing any moving lorries.

"This is weird because since the implementation of the moratorium period, we have exported 5.2 tonnes of bauxite and even before that we have 5 million tonnes of stockpiles too," he told a press conference here today.

Wan Junaidi said he believed that the illegal mining activities were made possible do to the lack of enforcement officers monitoring the sites.

On the moratorium period ending Dec 31, the minister said the question whether the period would be extended or ended as scheduled would be discussed by the Cabinet tomorrow.

On Jan 15 this year, Wan Junaidi announced the Cabinet's decision to implement the moratorium period on bauxite mining in Kuantan and so far, the period had been extended three times before being set to end on Dec 31.

On his aerial observation today, Wan Junaidi said he was satisfied with the moves taken by the agencies involved, including the Kuantan Port Consortium Sdn Bhd, which had spent RM30 million to upgrade the transportation process for the mineral.

Describing Kuantan after the implementation of the moratorium period as 'better and more beautiful', he also expressed hope that those involved would learn a lesson or two from their mistakes.

"We thank the ports for taking the move to make it right despite having suffered some losses during the moratorium period. All quarters must learn. It is a hard lesson, (suffering for) almost a year," he added. -BERNAMA