Govt not ready to allow mining of non-radioactive rare earth element, says Natural Resources Minister

KUALA LUMPUR: While there may be a slew of laws on mining activities, the government is not ready at the moment to allow the mining of non-radioactive rare earth elements (NR-REE), Parliament was told Tuesday (Dec 8).

"The National Land Council has yet to discuss in detail on rare earth mining in Kedah, or elsewhere in the country.

"The Ministry is currently drafting a framework for standard operating procedures (SOPs) for NR-REE mining to ensure that it is done in a sustainable manner," Energy and Natural Resources Minister Datuk Dr Shamsul Anuar Nasarah (pic) said when replying to a question raised by Fuziah Salleh (PH-Kuantan) in the Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday.

He said the SOPs will cover the entire mineral value chain from mining, management of waste and progressive mine closure that must comply with the Mineral Development Act 1994, Geological Survey Act 1974, Environmental Quality Act 1974 and state mineral enactments.

"On this matter, the Ministry will hold consultation with all stakeholders from the state governments, federal agencies, non-governmental bodies and industry representatives before the SOPs on NR-REE resources are concluded," he added.

He cited an example where the government would not allow any rare earth mining activities in permanent forest reserves without any technical evaluation and approval.

"This is to avoid incidents of pollution which could degrade the environment, water resources and health of the community," he added.

He also said the government had recently reactivated the National Mineral Council (MNC) which will hold its first meeting later this month to coordinate policy and key matters between federal and state governments on NR-REE mining.

Shamsul noted that the nation's rare earth resources were non-radioactive resources and could be mined on site.

"Based on studies by the Mineral and Geosciences Department, the presence of Thorium in the NR-FEE resources is 0.27375 becquerel per gramme which is at a negligible level," he added.

He said there was no need to get a licence order under the Atomic Energy Licensing Act to mine rare earth resources if the radioactive material is not more than one becquerel per gramme as this would be deemed as non-radioactive material.

Fuziah wanted to know the decision of the National Land Council's approval for mining of rare rare earth elements in Kedah and elsewhere in the country.

She also wanted to know what was the content of the element in the REE and whether it contains thorium.

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