IPOH, Nov 27 — Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) is concerned that the Perak government may begin rare earth mining in the state, which it claims could endanger the lives of residents.
Its president Meenakshi Raman was alarmed to learn that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) had been signed between the state government and a Chinese company, Chinalco GXNF Rare Earth Development, to explore the possibility of mining rare earth minerals in Perak.
“Clearly, the exploratory works are a first step in embarking on rare-earth mining in the state, and SAM views this with utmost concern.
“The Perak is already home to a radioactive permanent waste facility in the Kledang Range that contains dangerous and harmful wastes of thorium and uranium, inherited from the notorious Asian Rare-Earth (ARE) plant that operated in Bukit Merah, Ipoh during the mid-1980s to 1990s,” she said in a statement today.
She argued that waste from the mining will remain radioactive for billions of years and pose high risks already to the people of Perak.
Meenakshi said MoU was revealed by the Ministry of Water, Land and Natural Resources (KATS) in a November 16 statement that described the move as “positive”.
“It is most shocking that the Perak government as well as KATS have not learnt the tragic lessons of the ARE plant that resulted in serious radioactive poisoning in the Bukit Merah community.
“High incidences of deaths among children, who suffered from leukaemia and cancer, children with elevated levels of lead in their blood, and above normal rates of miscarriages among pregnant women due to the radioactive poisoning,” she said.
Meenakshi pointed out that adding the word “sustainable” to rare-earth mining and processing does not make an inherently dangerous and risky activity safe.
She said the radioactive thorium and uranium wastes remain hazardous long after the mining activity.
“It is most irresponsible of the state government and KATS to promote environmentally unsound investments in rare-earths, despite the ARE lesson and the controversial Lynas rare-earth operations in Gebeng, Pahang.
“The state government and KATS must act responsibly in halting investments that bring huge profits for companies in the short-term and leave behind toxic, radioactive and hazardous legacies of waste dumps for generations to be burdened with,” she said.
“Instead, we should be promoting environmentally sound investments that benefit the public and the environment both in the short and long term,” she added.