Exco: Perak Forest Reserve being illegally mined for rare-earth with help of locals

IPOH: Illegal settlers mining non-radioactive rare earth elements (NR-REE) in Hulu Perak have been paying local residents to tip them off ahead of raids by authorities.

Perak Science, Environment and Green Technology committee chairman Teh Kok Lim said these settlers have been mining rare earth illegally at Bintang Hijau Forest Reserve and the authorities were faced with many challenges.

Besides hiring the locals to be their eyes and ears, the area is secluded and deep inside the forest reserve, he said.

Teh said these miners could easily detect the presence of enforcement officers.

“The 'illegal mining' areas are operating under the forest canopy, with minimal tree felling and the use of camouflage, making it difficult for enforcement teams to detect these illegal activities.

“The use of sophisticated communication devices allows those residing deep in the forest to communicate with 'spies' outside,” he said in his winding-speech on the Motion of Thanks to the Royal Address at the state assembly sitting on Wednesday (Feb 28).

Teh said to address these challenges, the state Forestry Department enforcement team has collaborated with the police to conduct intelligence operations to gather further information regarding these illegal activities.

He said various surveillance methods were used, including undercover operations, aerial surveys using helicopters, remote sensing and drones to gather detailed information on these illegal activities and formulate strategies to apprehend those involved.

“Surveillance and intelligence operations were conducted for three months to ensure the success of the raid, resulting in the capture of suspects involved in illegal mining activities.

“On Dec 8, last year, the police and the department conducted a raid on the suspected location, leading to the successful apprehension of 27 suspects within the forest reserve area,” he added.

Teh said the suspects apprehended consists of 18 foreign nationals, including 15 Chinese nationals and 3 Myanmar nationals, as well as nine locals (including four Orang Asli).

He said upon inspection, it was found that all suspects did not possess entry permits into the forest reserve and that they had no permits for mining activities as well.

“The estimated area of illegal mining is around 20ha. Equipment and machinery found in the area was seized.

“The Minerals and Geology Department which assisted in the operation confirmed the type of the minerals in the area, and stated that mineral extraction activities had not yet commenced,” he added.

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