IPOH, Nov 27 — Perak Mentri Besar Incorporated (MBI) chief executive officer Anuar Zainal Abidin said today they are aware of the past radioactive disaster in Bukit Merah here, but added that does not mean they should not explore the rare earth minerals in the state as it is a potential revenue.
Anuar said that the exploration on the rare earth is only to check whether the mining activity is completely safe to be undertaken.
“We were informed that there is a material called lanthanide in Perak and we also understand the sensitivities surrounding rare earths which is why we are working closely with state agencies and the Water, Land and Natural Resources Ministry (KATS) to look at the potential first.
“This is still at the preliminary stage. The memorandum of understanding is only to explore whether it is safe,” he told a press conference.
Anuar was responding to Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM), who had earlier criticised Perak government for signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Chinese company, Chinalco GXNF Rare Earth Development to explore the possibility of mining rare earth minerals in Perak.
Its president Meenakshi Raman said that the rare earth mining activities could endanger the lives of residents.
“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 poses high risks already to the people of Perak.
Anuar said that they are working closely with experts from the state agencies and KATS to avoid past incidents from repeating.
“We are concerned and cautious about this matter and we can’t proceed without an in-depth research. If it’s safe, we will proceed. But if it is not, then we would not dare to do so,” he said.
He also thanked SAM for raising the concern and added that they have plans to work together with SAM in this matter.