PETALING JAYA: A rare earth elements (REE) mining project in Perak is safe for residents because it adheres to strict environmental standards and is free from water outflow from the mining site to a nearby river, the government said.
Gerik MP Fathul Huzir Ayob, in a written question to Dewan Rakyat, had claimed that REE exploration in his constituency had caused public unease over possible water pollution upstream of Sungai Perak, the state’s longest river.
In his parliamentary reply, natural resources, environment and climate change minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad said at present, no effluence or outflow had been recorded from the site.
He said the mineral and geosciences department was making periodical checks of surface water and groundwater to ensure the mining met safety standards.
Nik Nazmi said the rare earth carbonate mine in Mukim Kenering had produced 5,139 tonnes of ore from September 2022 to August 2023.
In February, the mine extracted RM1.66 million worth of elements, with royalties collected by the Perak government, he added.
He said 184 people, 35% of them Malaysians, were working at the site. They comprised geologists, engineers and environmental officers.
Foreign expertise had to be tapped because of the skills required.
Separately, in a reply to Port Dickson MP Aminuddin Harun over concerns about REE mining, Nik Nazmi said the government was aware of public fears.
“In the pilot project in Mukim Kenering, Hulu Perak, we have found that the REE mining has no negative impact on the environment.
“The in-situ leaching mining method (currently employed) is relatively superior to conventional mining methods, including open-pit mining,” he said.
This method uses a low-concentration of ammonium sulphate solution that is injected into the soil to extract rare minerals through an ion exchange reaction.