What will come after rare earths exploration, deputy minister asks Perak

Pahang PKR chief Fuziah Salleh (fourth from right) posing for a photo with guests after a town hall session at Universiti Malaysia Sabah in Kota Kinabalu today.

KOTA KINABALU: Pahang PKR chief Fuziah Salleh is concerned over a rare earths deal in Perak despite an assurance that it will not involve any mining.

Fuziah, who is also deputy minister in charge of Islamic affairs, questioned the end game after the agreement between the Perak government and a China company.

“The assurance that there is no mining involved is somewhat reassuring but where will that lead to? What is the exploration for?

“So that is the question — what’s next? I am concerned. Why do you need to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the China company just for exploration?”

Fuziah, who has been a staunch critic of the Lynas issue, was responding to a question over the issue after attending a town hall session at Universiti Malaysia Sabah here today.

The water, land and natural resources ministry had yesterday addressed concerns over the agreement for the exploration of rare earths in Perak, saying the deal does not involve any mining activities.

In a statement, the ministry said the deal between Chinalco GXNF Rare Earth Development and the Perak government will only focus on research in identifying rare earths in the state, stressing that the minerals will not be extracted.

“The context of the signing of the MoU is still at an early stage, namely using the expertise of the China company in identifying potential rare earth resources in Perak, especially ion absorption clay types which do not contain thorium or uranium waste.”

Subsequently, Perak PKR chief Farhash Wafa Salvador Rizal Mubarak criticised the state government, saying it was irresponsible to sign the MoU with the Chinese firm to explore rare earths mining in the state.

Instead of such endeavours, he said, the Perak government should have looked at other economic activities that are sustainable and progressive rather than those that could endanger the people and the environment.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) president Meenakshi Raman had also slammed the Perak government and the ministry over the deal, saying they had not learnt from the radioactive poisoning resulting from the Asian Rare Earths (ARE) plant that used to operate in Bukit Merah in the state.

Fuziah noted it was not unusual for people to wonder what will happen after the exploration phase.

“What’s the need for the exploration? This is, of course, to identify the potential — how much is there and what it is to be used for.

“And after exploration, there could be mining. This is the process that will create the radioactive by-products.

“Then, there will be questions like whether they will use the (Lynas) factory in Gebeng for processing if mining of rare earths takes place later.”

Fuziah said although the radioactive waste in Kuantan was at a low level, it still doesn’t fit into the sustainable development policy.

“This will have an impact on the environment and people, especially people susceptible to cancer. This will be a burden to the next generation.

“People should come before profits,” she added.