KUALA LUMPUR, July 18 — The government has identified several areas in peninsular Malaysia and one in Sarawak that are potentially suitable for rare earth mining and development, the Dewan Rakyat was told today.
Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar said in his reply to Datuk Seri Edmund Santhara (PH-Segamat) that Putrajaya is studying policies and legislation to develop sustainable rare earth mining and processing.
“Preliminary studies show that a few areas such as Tanah Merah and Jeli in Kelantan; Baling and Kulim in Kedah; Kati, Trong and Grik in Perak; Muar in Johor as well as Simunjan and Sematan in Sarawak has the potential to be a mineral source containing rare earth elements and has the potential to be developed.
“The ministry is also studying the policies and mineral legislation to develop this rare earth elements resource utilising the best and most sustainable mining practices,” said Dr Xavier.
He said the industry could contribute up to RM100 billion over the next 10 years to the nation’s economy.
However, the minister admitted that the industry requires heavy investment before rare earth mining and processing can run smoothly while ensuring best mining practices to protect the environment and the public.
The PKR lawmaker advised the private sector, particularly SMEs to obtain the government’s data on high potential rare earth mining locations and to play an important role in developing the industry.
The government’s focus, Dr Xavier added, is to develop a downstream sector for the mining industry instead of merely exporting raw minerals.
He added that this was the reason that his ministry is looking into establishing the Mineral Development Authority Malaysia (MDAM), an idea first mooted in January this year.
MDAM is expected to fast track the development and administration of the mineral and mining industry in a holistic manner, including being the oversight body for the sector.
Dr Xavier also revealed that Malaysia has tremendous wealth when it comes to minerals with a total estimated value of RM732 billion.
The nation has 1.3 million tonnes of tin in reserve worth RM83.6 billion and can be found in Pahang, Kedah, Perak, Johor, Selangor, Kelantan and Terengganu, he said.
Iron ore found in Pahang, Kelantan, Johor, Terengganu, Perak, Melaka, Kedah and Negri Sembilan is worth around RM57.8 billion with an estimated reserve of 498.6 million tonnes.
Other notable minerals that can be found across the country include bauxite (RM15.6 billion, 169.8 million tonnes), copper (RM9.04 billion, 5.85 million tonnes), nickel (RM1.7 billion, 75 million tonnes), manganese (RM500 million, 5.7 million tonnes) and gold (RM9.9 billion).
Touching on the Lynas issue, in his reply to Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob (BN-Bera), Dr Xavier told the Lower House that the Cabinet will issue a statement on the matter in the near future.