KUALA LUMPUR, July 10 ― Malaysia has the potential to attract up to RM100 billion worth of investment in the rare earth downstream sector over the next 10 years, Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof said today.
The entrepreneurial development minister said some investors had expressed interest in the sector but were hesitant due to conflicting news about the government’s stance on rare earths processing.
“There have been some interest to invest in this country in the downstream sector by using the products from the rare earth. So there are inquiries but they made it clear they will only put in money once rare earth is regulated,” he said at the Malaysia Global Business Forum here.
He added the the investors only wanted clarity in terms of the standard operating procedures because they had heard the rare earths industry should not be allowed to thrive in Malaysia.
Redzuan does not appear to share a mutual view with his other Pakatan Harapan government colleagues, notably Yeo Bee Yin and Fuziah Salleh.
Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo and Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Fuziah are known to hold strong views against letting Australian miner Lynas continue its rare earths refinery in Gebeng, Pahang.
In his keynote address at the forum, Redzuan urged and encouraged local industry players to help the rare earth industry by explaining to the public on how the mineral is not as dangerous as it has been touted.
The minister pointed out that the government already has policies in place to ensure the proper disposal of the scheduled waste coming from rare earth to protect the health, safety and environment of the local populace.
“The law is already in place. On the best practices, it is already there. We have crude oil refineries here and there are processes vetted by industry players.
“They have to treat the waste. When treating crude oil, there's a lot of toxic sludge and that is treated accordingly to best practices. So any investor who wants to participate in this industry must tell us how they will treat the waste.
“We have our own engineering practices to make sure that the waste treatment facility is constructed in accordance to the best practices. This is done anywhere else in the world,” said Redzuan.
He added that investor interest in Malaysia over rare-earth is due to the fact that with the Lynas plant in Gebeng, the country has become the world's second biggest processor of rare earth in the world, providing 30 per cent of the total global output after China.
The minister recalled a conversation he had with an American investor recently who told him that with the US-China trade war, Malaysia is already strategically poised to take advantage in providing rare earth products to the West.
Rare earth is a critical component in producing high tech electronics and gadgets including smartphones as well as electric vehicle (EV) battery.
“The potential is in the future and in the potential partners you have. People want to come here to do EV battery manufacturing as a hub for world consumption.
“If we continue to champion rare earths, more will come,” he said.
He urged SMEs to learn in depth about rare earths and train up workers on how to handle the radioactive material.
He said his ministry hopes for more investments on rare earths processing to increase the government’s exports and pad up is finances.
“The Malaysian government would like to see more investment in this sector and create business opportunities for entrepreneurs which in turn will create more jobs for young Malaysians,” said Redzuan.