Rare earth industry venture


By ILI AQILAH=

IPOH: Three locations in Perak have been identified as possible sites to set up a non-radioactive rare earth element (NR-REE) processing plant, says Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Saarani Mohamad.

The locations are Muallim, Bandariang in Hulu Perak (near Gerik) and the Silver Valley Technology Park in Kanthan.

Saarani said the state had expressed its wish to the Federal Government to set up the NR-REE processing plant.

“We have made known our hopes to the Federal Government, whereby the three strategic locations can be made available any time, as these lands are under the state and government-linked companies.

“We are committed to setting up the NR-REE processing plant in the state as a downstream industry to produce semi-finished products and end products,” he said when replying to Goh See Hua (PH-Pasir Pinji) during question time in the state assembly sitting here.

“The processing plant should also be constructed in Perak first as we are the pioneer in identifying the mineral, and also the first state to implement the project,” he said, adding that the processed products have higher value compared to raw NR-REE.

A lanthanide mining project in Hulu Perak was started as a pilot project last October.

Lanthanides are a series of rare earth metals commonly used as catalysts in the manufacture of petroleum and synthetic products.

In his reply to Koo Haai Yen (PH-Keranji), Saarani said the mining project does not produce any materials that are classified as radioactive in Malaysia.

Regulatory authorities in Malaysia specify that Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) must not emit more than 1.0 becquerel per gramme (Bq/g), with this limit applicable to uranium (U-238) and thorium (Th-232), while the limit of 10 Bq/g applies to potassium (K-40).

Any material containing NORM that exceeds these limits is considered radioactive and falls under regulatory control.

Rare earth extraction industries that use NORM to produce rare earth materials will generate residue that also contains NORM.

Becquerel is the unit of radioactivity under the International System of Units, with one becquerel defined as the activity of a quantity of radioactive material in which one nucleus decays per second.

Saarani said there were two committees set up for the implementation of the NR-REE pioneer project.

“These are to ensure the mining activity is according to policy, rules and guidelines, while also monitoring and managing the project,” he added.

Earlier, Saarani said the state had received a royalty of RM1.66mil from the first exportation of rare earth carbonate (REC) to China, with the payment based on the 296.2 tonnes of REC sent in February.

“From February until April, a total of 4,477.039 tonnes of REC were exported to China. There are some 1,000 tonnes at the site right now,” he said.

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