SAM questions decision to allow rare earth mining in Perak

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 27 Nov 2019

PETALING JAYA: Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) is questioning why rare earth mining will be allowed in Perak.

SAM president Meenakshi Raman (pic) said it was irresponsible of the Water, Land, and Natural Resources Ministry as well as the Perak government to allow a China-based company to explore and mine rare earth in Perak – which has far-reaching implications on human health and the environment.

She said authorities should take heed of lessons learnt from the Asian Rare Earth (ARE) plant (that was in operation from the mid-1980s to 1990s) that resulted in the dumping of hazardous thorium and uranium waste in the Kledang Range.

"High incidents of deaths among children suffering from leukaemia and cancer have been reported in Bukit Merah. There were also reports indicating elevated levels of lead in their blood, and the rate of miscarriages reported in the area is relatively higher.

"Therefore, we find it most shocking that the Perak government and the ministry have not learnt the tragic lessons where the ARE plant had posed serious threat to the lives of the Bukit Merah community who are suffering from radioactive poisoning," she said.

She said this in response to the ministry's announcement on Nov 16 that the Perak government, had through the Mentri Besar Incorporated endorsed a memorandum of understanding with China-based Chinalco GXNF Rare Earth Development Co Ltd.

Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Datuk Dr Xavier Jayakumar, who witnessed the MoU signing ceremony, had called on other state governments to emulate Perak in tapping natural resources through "sustainable mining".

Meenakshi said adding the word "sustainable" would not make the activity "safe".

"It is a highly hazardous venture that has far-reaching implications on public health and the environment. Learn from past mistakes," she said.

She called on the Perak government not to allow rare earth mining and for the ministry to stop promoting such high-risk activities.

Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak took a dig at the move.

Najib said prior to wresting control of Putrajaya, Pakatan Harapan had condemned the existence of a rare earth processing plant in Pahang, claiming radioactive threats and expressing fear of genetic mutation.

"Now Pakatan supports rare earth (exploration and mining)," he said on his Facebook page.

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