IPOH, Nov 28 — Perak PKR chief Farhash Wafa Salvador Rizal Mubarak said the state government was irresponsible for signing a memorandum of understanding with a Chinese firm to explore rare earths mining here.

He said the state government should instead explore economic activities that were sustainable and progressive rather than those that could endanger residents and the environment.

Farhash also insisted that Perak Mentri Besar Incorporated (MBI) chief executive officer Anuar Zainal Abidin’s assurances of safety did not allay fears stemming from a disastrous venture into rare-earths mining in the state during the 1990s.

“Friends of the Malaysian Environment (SAM) have reminded us of the disaster involving the Asian Rare Earth (ARE) plant, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Chemicals in causing serious radioactive poisoning in Bukit Merah. The dark history still haunts the locals because of the negligence.

“So are we going to burden the people just for wanting a source of income without understanding the true cost and risk?” he said in a statement.

Farhash told the state and federal governments to show greater initiative in defusing the matter before it eroded public trust in Pakatan Harapan yet further.

“People are still unhappy with the decision to maintain the Lynas rare earth plant in Gebeng, Kuantan. We must be more concerned with the people’s sensitivity and future.

“There are many safer economic activities for generating long-term income,” he said.

Yesterday, Anuar acknowledged concerns about the Bukit Merah disaster but argued that this should not prevent the state from exploring the potentially lucrative rare-earths mining.

He also argued that the agreement was simply to study the viability of rare earths mining in the state and not to begin this directly.

SAM has criticised the Perak government for signing the MOU with China’s Chinalco GXNF Rare Earth Development, with its president Meenakshi Raman saying that rare earth mining activities could endanger the welfare of residents.

She argued that radiation risks could remain for up to billions of years and a radiation disaster could effectively turn the affected area permanently unsafe for humans.

Rare earths is a term used to describe 18 metals that are vital for many industrial and hi-tech applications such as the production of smartphones, hybrid car batteries, wind turbines, steel and low-energy light bulbs.