Wong Tack, less an environmentalist, more a propagandist ― Arveent Kathirtchelvan

JULY 16 ― After all the dust has settled, after MESTECC officials cleared Lynas, after KATS officials gave the Lynas Advanced Material Plant (LAMP) of any groundwater contamination, we still have Wong Tack throwing tantrums to justify his compromised stance. The MP for Bentong has now zeroed-in on the statement of the Entrepreneur Development Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof who said up to RM100 billion worth of investments can be unlocked through the rare-earth downstream sector.

However, YB Wong does not need to be surprised. Rare-earth metals are ubiquitous in almost all industries, from petroleum catalysts to phosphors, with electric vehicle technology potentially skyrocketing the utilisation of Praseodymium-Neodymium (PrNd). Surprising for an environmentalist to be pushing for less electric vehicles.

Unsurprisingly, YB Wong doesn’t understand geopolitics or global business all too well. He asks why rare-earth metals are not mined or processed anywhere else outside of China. Unfortunately this is incorrect. Though China owns near monopoly of the market capitalisation on rare-earth metals, countries like Australia, United States, Myanmar, Russia and India produce them as well. What we need to realise is in China, anything goes. They are ramping up renewable energy and nuclear power to unimaginable levels due to this and they are the only country that can do so. Similarly, their extraction and processing of rare-earths are so high due to unilateral government push. This does not exist elsewhere, which is why other countries lag so behind.

Another matter YB Wong asserts is if reaping the benefits of rare-earths depends on a processing facility, why are US, Japan and Germany having thriving downstream industries without refining factories? Simply put, China undercut them on prices. A customer will prefer to buy a cheaper product of a similar quality than a more expensive one. Now that China is using rare-earths as a trade leverage, countries around the world will be stockpiling rare-earth metals as before and searching for other deposits outside of China. One has been found off the coast of Japan. MP Materials, the owners of California’s Mountain Pass Rare Earth Mine, have responded to the trade war by stating they will start their own processing in the United States by 2020. Germany have signed rare-earth deals with Australia and Kazakhstan.

If Wong Tack is a genuine environmentalist, it is surprising that he seems to be supportive of rare-earth mines if they are away from him. If he believes rare-earth processing is so environmentally negative, is it not hypocritical of him to turn a blind eye towards other processing as well? Especially if he holds the same vision of electrifying the transport sector and other “green” projects supported generally by environmentalists, will he not increase the demand for rare-earth metals whilst increasing mining impacts? What is this if not hypocrisy?

The trend of looking elsewhere for rare-earths has already begun. Malaysia is lucky enough to have the largest manufacturer of rare-earth metals outside of China on our soil. If we heavily invest in procuring the downstream technologies, Malaysia’s prosperity can grow exponentially. This has already been highlighted in Liberasi’s Proactive Reindustrialisation series, Part 2.

However, YB Wong is so close-minded that he can only complain about waste management dangers that don’t exist as disposal techniques that are safe and secure already exist. This type of person, one who doesn’t research enough before talking or one who continually asserts disproven facts just to win an argument, does not do anything to contribute to Malaysia, rather only want instant personal gratification or political growth. YB Wong, his supporters in Save Malaysia, Stop Lynas, Friends of Earth Malaysia and the Consumer Association of Penang, on Lynas, have been mistaken multiple times and simply do not want to lose. What they don’t realise is, intellectually, they have already lost.

* Arveent Kathirthelvan is the Chief Coordinator of Liberasi.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or organisation and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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