Seek public views for NR-REE project


  • Letters
  • Thursday, 16 May 2024

In The Star's article entitled "Sg Wang to be pioneer for NR-REE mining project” dated May 11, 2024, it was reported that the state government has approved 220ha of land in Sungai Wang, Hulu Jelai in Lipis, Pahang to be developed into the pioneer Non-Radioactive Rare Earth Element (NR-REE) mining project.

The proposal for the project is said to have been approved by the state government and will now be submitted to the state authority.

As this project may potentially have adverse effects not only on the local communities residing in the vicinity, but also on the surrounding environment and biodiversity, it is hoped that the project proponent would also be submitting an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for review by the Department of Environment.

In this regard, Section 34A of the Environmental Quality Act 1974 (EQA) mandates an EIA report for certain prescribed activities listed under the First and Second Schedules of the Environmental Quality (Prescribed Activities) (Environmental Impact Assessment) Order 2015.

An EIA report for prescribed activities that fall under the First Schedule of the Order requires no public participation and is to be submitted to the Department of Environment State Office for approval.

On the other hand, an EIA report for prescribed activities that fall under the Second Schedule of the Order requires mandatory public participation, and is to be submitted to the Department of Environment Headquarters for approval by the director-general of environmental quality.

Item 8(a) of the First Schedule of the Order lists "ore processing outside mineral tenement area including concentration of aluminium, copper, gold, iron, tantalum or rare earth element" as a prescribed activity.

Meanwhile, Item 8 of the Second Schedule of the Order lists (a) mining of minerals in new areas involving large scale operation, and (b) mining of minerals within/adjacent/near to environmentally sensitive areas as prescribed activities.

Therefore, it is quite clear that the NR-REE project is a prescribed activity under the EQA and consequently, an EIA report must be submitted to the relevant Department of Environment for thorough review.

Before doing so, it is incumbent for the project proponent to determine, among others, (a) whether the proposed identified mining area is an environmentally sensitive area, (b) that there is scientific evidence that the rare earth elements proposed to be mined are non-radioactive; and (c) the potential adverse environmental effects on local communities and biodiversity in the affected and surrounding area.

In this regard, it is hoped that inclusive, effective and constructive public participation is conducted (regardless of whether the project falls under the First or Second Schedule of the Order) as the potential effects of the project has far-reaching implications that may last beyond our lifetime into the next generation.

Above all, it is hoped that all scientific, developmental and environmental data is given due and proper consideration by all relevant authorities before this project begins.

Dr SHEILA RAMALINGAM

Senior lecturer

Faculty of Law

Universiti Malaya

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